Professor Gets Grant for HIV Research
October 27, 2012
Filed under News
The Catholic University of America will receive $1.67 million over four years in grant funding for research on a new approach to developing a vaccine for the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, as of August 2012.
Dr. Venigalla B. Rao, chairman of the Department of Biology and director of The Center for Advanced Training in Cell and Molecular Biology, is leading the four-year project, titled “Potent Phage T4-Derived V2 Immunogens as HIV Vaccines.” In the first year of research, Rao will receive $413,786. The financial support provided for the project is coming from the Innovation for HIV Vaccine Discovery by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“Through our ideas, based on recent results from the vaccine trial, we may have an opportunity to really understand which molecules of the virus communicate with the receptors on the host cells,” Rao said. “If we understand that, we could potentially block those interactions so that the virus could not get into the cells.” The new approach to developing an effective HIV vaccine focuses on the initial interaction between the virus and its host.
Since the human immunodeficiency virus has been very poorly understood in the past, Rao said the research will be a great challenge. A “collaborative, creative, dedicated, and focused” approach is essential in the problem-solving and experimentation involved in such a difficult project.
“This type of research is cutting-edge, both the ideas and the technology we have been developing,” said Rao, who has been working at Catholic University for 23 years. The grant money will be used in order to best solve the problems that arise throughout the course of the research project, which can be very expensive. He has been working closely with Guofen Gao, a graduate student in Biology who, he said, has been very helpful to the research project thus far.
The lives of over 30 million worldwide would be positively affected if Rao’s research is successful.
Rao hopes not only that through such research an effective vaccine will be discovered, but also that this vaccine will create a platform in the medical field. This platform, he said, with the collaboration from other groups, could have the potential for broad application of treatment and cure for many infectious diseases.
Rao says he is honored and privileged to have been chosen to participate in this innovative research project. “It also looks very good for the University,” Rao said. “We are not Harvard or Stanford, but to be considered at that level, to potentially make new discoveries, would help the University itself as well as the students who participate.” Rao is encouraged to work hard and put a great deal of energy into the project, in hopes of reflecting well back on the University, its faculty members, and its students.
NIH has awarded $7.8 million in funding for the first year of the project to 14 research organizations. The other grant recipients are Altravex, Inc., Dartmouth College, Duke University, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, New York University Langone Medical Center, University of California-Irvine, University of Maryland, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, University of Minnesota, University of North Carolina, University of Rochester, and University of Texas-El Paso, according to the NIH News release of August 21.