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HIV/AIDS Drug Discovery Research

The identification of viral and cellular drug targets is essential for fueling the drug development pipeline. Early drug discovery efforts concentrated on a relatively small number of viral targets such as HIV reverse transcriptase (an enzyme that catalyzes the synthesis of viral DNA within infected cells from the RNA template carried by infectious virions) and HIV protease (an enzyme that cleaves and processes viral precursor proteins allowing virion maturation). Treatment regimens containing combinations of reverse transcriptase and protease inhibitors, commonly known as highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART, revolutionized the treatment of people with HIV by markedly lowering viral load and decreasing the incidence of AIDS-associated opportunistic infections. Many patients receiving HAART nevertheless suffer metabolic abnormalities and drug toxicities, have difficulty adhering to the complex drug regimens, and develop strains of HIV resistant to therapy. To address these concerns, additional potential therapies using novel formulation technologies or targeting other steps in the viral replication process are being evaluated and are in various stages of preclinical and clinical investigation.

NIAID current research activities include the following:

  • NIAID funds grants to discover and develop novel and improved treatments for HIV and its co-infections.
  • NIAID administers contracts that evaluate new therapeutic agents and strategies for potential activity in cell culture and in animal efficacy models.
  • NIAID funds grants to discover and develop new biomarkers and diagnostic modalities for HIV and its coinfections
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Last Updated July 21, 2015