- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The National Institute on Drug Abuse announced Wednesday that it has awarded three scientists the Avant-Garde award for their HIV/AIDS prevention research.

Michael Farzan of the Scripps Research Institute, Eric Poeschla of the University of Colorado-Denver and Peter Kim of Stanford University were selected for their proposals in preventing and treating the virus, particularly in people with substance abuse addiction, the agency said.

“These scientists are pioneering exciting new approaches aimed at preventing and treating new cases of HIV and helping people at risk live longer, healthier lives,” agency director Nora D. Volkow said in a statement.

There are 36.7 million people around the world infected with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 17 million are treated with antiretroviral therapy, known as the HIV cocktail, that allows people to manage the disease.

New infections have decreased over the past five years, but complications from HIV/AIDS remains the eighth leading cause of death for people aged 25-34, and ninth cause of death for 35- to 44-year-olds.

The winning proposals were chosen for “improving HIV prevention through effective gene therapies; enhancing innate (natural) immunity against HIV and other related viruses; and developing new small-molecule drugs to treat HIV-1 infection.”

The award, now in its 10th year, provides recipients $500,000 annually for five years for their research, but is subject to available funding to the National Institutes of Health, located in Bethesda, Maryland.

President Trump’s budget for fiscal 2018 would cut the NIH budget by 20 percent. It’s unclear if that would effect funding for the award.

• Laura Kelly can be reached at lkelly@washingtontimes.com.

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