July 25, 2017

CIPHER grants and fellowships encourage innovative responses to paediatric and adolescent HIV

Written by International AIDS Society

This press release originally appeared on IAS’s website.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

(Paris, France) – The International AIDS Society’s (IAS’s) Collaborative Initiative for Paediatric HIV Education and Research (CIPHER) has awarded research grants to six exceptional early-stage investigators at the 9th IASConference on HIV Science (IAS 2017). They were announced at the plenary session on Tuesday, 25 July.

The awards include four research grants and two new Growing the Leaders of Tomorrow fellowships. They are given to individuals conducting pioneering research to help reduce the impact of HIV on children and adolescents, and keep future generations safe from infection.

The IAS CIPHER grants support early-stage principal investigators’ critically important research in paediatric and adolescent HIV, and the new fellowships promote mentorship between research leaders and investigators working on HIV clinical science in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The impact of HIV on infants, children and adolescents is most severe in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet research funding, capacity and leadership are often concentrated far from the heart of the epidemic,” IAS President Linda-Gail Bekker said. “IAS CIPHER grants and fellowships help bridge that gap by supporting innovative research and mentorship where they are needed most, and where they might never exist without CIPHER support.”

“Building opportunities for mentorship between experienced and early-stage investigators, and bridges between research institutions, is essential to developing world-class research capacity in the countries where children and adolescents are most seriously impacted by HIV,” Helen McDowell, Director of Government Affairs, Access & Patient Advocacy for CIPHER Founding Sponsor ViiV Healthcare, said

“CIPHER grants and fellowships make a difference in the epidemic. They help answer the most pressing questions in paediatric HIV today, and support early-stage investigators to become the HIV research leaders of tomorrow.”

CIPHER research grants

Since 2012, CIPHER research grants have provided nearly $3.5 million to support crucial research by early-stage investigators working to advance the diagnosis, treatment and care of infants, children and adolescents affected by HIV in resource-limited settings.

Recipients of the 2017 CIPHER research grants will get up to $150,000 each over two years to support their investigations, which were selected as the most innovative and promising study proposals received from applicants in 30 countries. The CIPHER 2017 research grant recipients are:

  • Andrew McCrary, whose CIPHER-supported research will evaluate indicators of cardiac function in children living with HIV in Kenya
  • Amy Slogrove, whose work will address whether antiretroviral therapy can protect against maternal hypertensive disorders in pregnancy and associated adverse birth outcomes in HIV-infected women in South Africa
  • Wipaporn Songtaweesin, whose research will advance strategies to promote adherence to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among youth at risk for HIV in Thailand
  • Ute Feucht, whose work will assess the factors that impact foetal and infant immunity and growth in HIV- and antiretroviral-exposed uninfected children in South Africa.

Growing the Leaders of Tomorrow fellows

Building and supporting global research leadership in the response to paediatric HIV is the focus of CIPHER’s new Growing the Leaders of Tomorrow Fellowship Programme. The programme strengthens paediatric HIV clinical research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa by providing promising early-stage investigators with two-year, $70,000 research fellowships and by supporting their connections with internationally renowned mentors to help guide their investigations in paediatric HIV.

Through this framework, the programme supports innovative research, strengthens each fellow’s research skills, helps facilitate their integration into international clinical research networks and enhances their ability to compete for international funding – while also building critically important paediatric HIV research capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.

The recipients of the first Growing the Leaders of Tomorrow Fellowships, selected from applicants in seven countries, are:

  • Adrie Bekker of South Africa who, working with mentor Prof Mark Cotton, will study the pharmacokinetic and safety characteristics of nevirapine and lopinavir/ritonavir in HIV-exposed and infected low-birth weight infants in South Africa
  • Namangolwa Jane Mutanga of Zambia who, under the guidance of mentor Prof Philip Thuma, will study the long-term health outcomes and survival of perinatally HIV-exposed children in Zambia.

CIPHER-supported research at IAS 2017

In addition, new research on paediatric HIV supported by CIPHER will be featured at several IAS 2017 sessions:

  • Mind the Gap: Filling knowledge gaps in paediatric and adolescent HIV for an AIDS-FREE generation (Sunday 23 July, 08:00 to 10:00, Palais des Congrès).
    This IAS satellite session will launch new global research agendas on HIV testing, treatment and service delivery for children and adolescents, developed by CIPHER and the World Health Organization (WHO) through a multinational stakeholder engagement process. The CIPHER/WHO research prioritization process highlights the evidence needed to improve outcomes for children and adolescents living with HIV and reach global targets to end paediatric and adolescent AIDS by 2030. The research agendas unveiled at this session will inform global policy change on paediatric HIV and will be used in the selection of future CIPHER-funded research projects.
  • The 3rd HIV-exposed Uninfected Child Workshop (Sunday, 23 July, 10:15-14:30, Palais des Congrès). 
    This collaborative conversation around HIV-exposed uninfected child health outcomes is co-sponsored by the IAS CIPHER, WHO and the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS) of the US National Institutes of Health.
  • Oral Abstract Session 2: Children and Adolescents: Issues in the First and Second Decade (Monday, 24 July, 11.00-12.30)
    “Inequality in mortality and access to antiretroviral therapy in in sub-Saharan Africa: a Collaborative Initiative for Paediatric HIV Education and Research (CIPHER) Cohort Collaboration analysis”
    This important new study presents one of the most comprehensive pictures of treatment outcomes for adolescents living with perinatally acquired HIV in sub-Saharan Africa by country income group. The analysis, which includes data on more than 30,000 adolescents, from seven networks and 25 countries, was developed by the CIPHER Cohort Collaboration, the largest collaboration of paediatric HIV observational cohorts to date.