03/10/2010 Press Release: "Unraveling the Mystery Behind HIV/AIDS", Singapore Agency for Science, Technology and Research Print E-mail
  
Monday, 12 April 2010 17:02

Press Release: "Unraveling the Mystery Behind HIV/AIDS", Singapore Agency for Science, Technology and Research"

PRESS RELEASE
3 MAR 2010 UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY BEHIND HIV/AIDS New findings by Nobel Laureate shed light on the elusive AIDS virus and may lead toeffective HIV vaccine development1.Professor Francoise Barre-Sinoussi 1 , winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize inPhysiology or Medicine and co-discoverer of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus(HIV) responsible for AIDS, was in Biopolis, Singapore, on 3 March 2010 to shareher latest research findings on natural protection against AIDS found in infectedhumans and primates she studied. Despite prolonged infection, these subjects donot develop AIDS and serve as valuable models to understand what constituteprotection against AIDS. The models include a rare population of HIV-infectedhumans called “HIV controllers” 2 , and African Green Monkeys which are naturalhosts of the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus – a virus that is highly similar to HIV.2.Globally, there are more people who are being newly infected with HIV thanthere are HIV-infected people being treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy(HAART). This is so in spite of the international efforts for universal access toHAART. “The development of an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine is critical to preventnew infections and to reverse the curb of this devastating pandemic,” said ProfBarre-Sinoussi, who is Director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit of the 1 Francoise Barre-Sinoussi was first author of the publication that reported in 1983 the discovery ofthe retrovirus responsible for AIDS. This retrovirus was later named Human Immunodeficiency Virus(HIV). For their discovery of HIV, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, who headed theresearch team in 1983, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008. (Refer to Annex forbiography of Francoise Barre-Sinoussi.) 2 “HIV controllers” belong to a rare group of HIV-positive individuals who, despite being infected formore than 10 years, are able to cope with the virus internally and avoid the subsequent onslaught ofopportunistic infections and symptoms that commonly affect HIV-positive patients. About 1 out ofevery 300 infected persons is a HIV controller.
Virology Department, Institut Pasteur in France. Through studying these models ofnatural protection, Prof Barre-Sinoussi hopes to identify immune correlates ofprotection 3 that will contribute to and overcome the obstacles researchers havefaced in the search for an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine.3.In high income countries, access to HAART has had an extraordinary impacton HIV-related mortality. The pronounced decline (more than 85% reduction) in AIDS-related deaths as a result of advances in treatment has led to an increase inHIV prevalence in these countries, making HIV infection a chronic condition. “Some patients on long term HAART are presenting a number of complications likemetabolic disorders, cancers or cardiovascular disease. This highlights the need forcareful monitoring and management of HIV infection in patients on HAART. Havinga HIV vaccine would not only circumvent such complications, but would also be lesscostly than the treatment,” added Prof Barre-Sinoussi.4.Prof Philippe Kourilsky, formerly Director of Institut Pasteur and who iscurrently Chairman of A*STAR’s Singapore Immunology Network which co-organised the seminar, said, “HIV infection is an enormously important problem ofpublic health worldwide. Knowledge gained from HIV research on which types ofhuman immune cells react after a viral infection will be useful for developing HIVvaccines. Whilst there is a lot of ongoing work on developing preventive vaccinesthat are given to HIV-negative people to prevent them from getting infected, I believeit is equally important to develop HIV therapeutic vaccines to treat people who arealready infected with HIV, to cure the disease.’’ New knowledge on how HIV infectsand evades destruction by the host immune response can be a powerful tool forelucidating the complex relationship between viruses and hosts, not only inunderstanding the rampant spread of AIDS but also in new epidemics related toinfectious diseases such dengue and influenza.5.“We are very honoured to have such a distinguished scientist as Prof Barre-Sinoussi visit our research institutes at the Biopolis. We hope that our youngscientists and students aspiring to embark on a career in science will be inspired by 3 Correlates of protection to a virus or other infectious pathogens refer to measurable signs thatindicate a person is protected against becoming infected and/or developing a disease.
her relentless pursuit in finding a solution to the widespread AIDS epidemic and inturn be challenged to discover new cures to infectious diseases that pose globalhealth problems,” said Prof Kourilsky.6.The seminar by Prof Barre-Sinoussi, which was jointly organised by theAgency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)’s Institute of MedicalBiology (IMB) and Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), attracted an audience ofover one hundred including researchers from the research institutes and hospitals,clinicians, as well as university students from NUS and NTU.7.According to global figures in a Nov 2009 report released by the Joint UnitedNations Programme on HIV/AIDS, AIDS continues to be a major global healthpriority – there were about 2.7 million new infections, around 2 million AIDS-relateddeaths and some 33.4 million people living with HIV in 2008. In Singapore, 456residents were newly reported with HIV infection in 2008. This brought the totalnumber of HIV-infected Singaporeans to 3,941 as of end 2008 (Source: Ministry ofHealth, Singapore) 4 .AGENCY FOR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND RESEARCH (A*STAR)For queries and further clarification, please contact:Wang Yunshi (Ms)Corporate CommunicationsAgency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)Tel:(65) 6826 6443Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .sgAbout the Institute of Medical Biology (IMB)The Institute of Medical Biology is a member of the Agency for Science, Technologyand Research (A*STAR). With its roots in the Centre for Molecular Medicine since2004, it became the Institute of Medical Biology in 2007, with a mission to studymechanisms of human disease in order to discover new and effective therapeuticstrategies for improved quality of life. IMB is developing internationally excellentresearch programmes working closely with clinical collaborators, targeting thechallenging interface between basic science and clinical medicine, and aiming topromote increased and effective throughput of research from bench to bedside. Itsgrowing portfolio of strategic research topics aims to promote translational research 4 The statistics for HIV infection in Singapore in 2009 have not been released.
on the mechanisms of human diseases with a cell to tissue emphasis that can helpidentify new therapeutic strategies for disease amelioration, cure and eradication.For more information about IMB, please visit www.imb.a-star.edu.sg.About the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN)SIgN, officially inaugurated on 15 January 2008, is a research consortium underA*STAR's Biomedical Research Council. It is aimed at building on the strengths ofthe existing immunology research groups at A*STAR, as well as expanding andstrengthening the immunology research expertise in Singapore. SIgN's objectivesinclude coordinating basic, translational and clinical research needed to establishimmunology as a core capability in Singapore. The major focus areas of research atSIgN are Infection and Inflammation, in which SIgN researchers investigate immuneresponses and regulation in disease-specific contexts. Through this, SIgN aims tobuild up a strong platform in basic human immunology research for better translationof research findings into clinical applications. SIgN also sets out to establishproductive links with local initiatives within Biopolis and across Singapore, as well asto obtain international recognition as a leading immunology research hub whileestablishing relationships with the best institutions in the world.For more information about SIgN, please visit www.sign.a-star.edu.sg.About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is the lead agency forfostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-basedand innovation-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences, andphysical sciences and engineering research institutes, and seven consortia & centre,which are located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis, as well as their immediate vicinity.A*STAR supports Singapore's key economic clusters by providing intellectual,human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramuralresearch in the universities, hospitals, research centres, and with other local andinternational partners.For more information about A*STAR, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg.
 
ANNEX
Biography of Francoise Barre-SinoussiFrançoise BARRÉ-SINOUSSI, PhD, is the Director of the “Regulation of RetroviralInfections” Unit, at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. She has been involved inretrovirology research since the early 1970s. She is recognised for her contributionsto HIV/AIDS research, in particular as the first author of the publication that reportedin 1983 the discovery of the cause of AIDS, a retrovirus, later named HIV. In 1988,she became head of her own laboratory at the Institut Pasteur and initiated researchprogrammes on viral and host determinants of HIV/AIDS pathogenesis.Between 1988 and 1998, she was involved with collaborative programmes on HIVvaccine research, using primate models. Today, the research programmes of herteam focus on mechanisms required to protect against HIV/SIV infections and/oragainst early pathogenic signals induced by HIV/SIV.Françoise BARRÉ-SINOUSSI is author and co-author of more than 200 originalpublications and of more than 120 articles in book reviews. She has been invited asa speaker more than 250 International meetings and/or conferences. She is amember of a number of scientific committees and societies in France and elsewhere.Since 2009, she has been a member of the National Academy of Science in France.She also received more than 10 national or international awards including the NobelPrize for Physiology or Medicine in 2008 for her contributions to HIV/AIDS.In addition to her research activities, Françoise BARRÉ-SINOUSSI is activelyinvolved in promoting strong interactions between HIV/AIDS research and publichealth interventions in resource limited countries, particularly through the InstitutPasteur International Network and the coordination of the ANRS researchprogrammes in Cambodia and Vietnam. She is also committed to training andtechnology transfer activities on site in Africa and Asia.
 
 
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