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Center for AIDS Research lands NIH grant renewal

May. 7, 2020, 10:55 AM


by Bill Snyder

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has renewed its support of the Tennessee Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), a four-way partnership between Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Meharry Medical College, the Tennessee Department of Health and Nashville CARES.

The grant, announced last week, will provide approximately $7.5 million over the next five years to enable the CFAR to continue its efforts to reduce the burden of HIV by supporting a wide range of scientific research, training and mentoring, and community engagement in Tennessee and beyond.

Established five years ago, this CFAR was extended beyond the former Vanderbilt-Meharry Center for AIDS Research to include the state health department and Nashville CARES, a nonprofit agency that provides HIV prevention education, confidential HIV testing, and support services to people living with HIV and those at risk of being infected.

“The expertise, tools and resources needed to end the HIV pandemic are distributed between our four institutions and the community,” said CFAR Director Simon Mallal, MBBS. “It was therefore natural that we should consolidate our partnership further in this next exciting phase of the CFAR.”

“The Tennessee CFAR is exemplary of the collaborative approach needed to bring an end to the HIV epidemic, and it leverages the unique strengths of the four organizations,” added Associate CFAR Director James Hildreth, MD, PhD, president and CEO of historically black Meharry Medical College in Nashville.

Mallal, professor of Medicine and of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology who holds the Major E.B. Stahlman Chair in Infectious Diseases, also directs the Vanderbilt Center for Translational Immunology and Infectious Diseases.

Despite decades of progress in preventing and treating HIV, there remain immense challenges and HIV infection continues to be a major public health problem, particularly among underserved populations. Despite known effective treatments and preventive measures, about 750 new HIV infections are still reported annually in Tennessee.

Goals of the CFAR include supporting highly collaborative, multi-disciplinary and community-engaged HIV research, nurturing the career development of junior investigators, and enabling HIV research opportunities for Meharry investigators.

“Our unique four-way partnership positions our CFAR for discovery and meaningful impact on HIV far beyond what each institution could accomplish separately,” said Associate CFAR Director David Haas, MD.

Haas, professor of Medicine, Pharmacology and Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt, also directs the CFAR’s Clinical Sciences Core and the Vanderbilt AIDS Clinical Trials Program.

Other CFAR cores include:

  • The Data Sciences Core, directed by Bryan Shepherd, PhD; professor of Biostatistics at Vanderbilt;
  • The Developmental Core, which supports collaborative, interdisciplinary HIV research through funding, mentorship and skills development, directed by John Koethe, MD, MSCI, associate professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt; and
  • The Laboratory Sciences Core, directed by Spyros Kalams, MD, associate professor of Medicine and Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt.

Co-leaders of the CFAR Disparities and HIV Scientific Working Group are:

  • April Pettit, MD, MPH, associate professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt;
  • Leah Alexander, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of Graduate Studies and Research at Meharry;
  • Meredith Brantley, PhD, MPH, director of HIV Surveillance and Prevention Programs in the Tennessee Department of Health; and
  • Lauren Brown, PhD, LCSW, director of Behavioral Health and Research for Nashville CARES.

Program managers Vickie Myers and Heather Burgess support the Administrative Core.

For more information about the Tennessee CFAR, visit its website at The website includes links for people interested in becoming part of the research effort, signing up for clinical trials and contributing support to the center.

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