UAB is one of the seven inaugural NIH-designated Centers for AIDS Research established in 1988 and a world leader in HIV/AIDS research and patient care. UAB has been among the first to make the newest, most effective treatments available to patients, including the three-drug combination that today is the standard of care. From the field, a UAB-led team discovered the simian virus linked to all major HIV-1 variants and traced the exact route of HIV's spread to humans. U.S. News & World Report ranks the AIDS program No. 8 among "America's Best Graduate Schools," and the journal Science recently highlighted Birmingham and UAB's 1917 Clinic among 10 cities nationally excelling in efforts to combat the disease.
The role of the UAB CFAR is to expand the intersections of HIV research among multiple scientific disciplines and to catalyze groundbreaking research. As a chartered University-wide Research Center, the CFAR provides focus and coordination for basic and clinical AIDS research activities to ensure effective dialogue between administrators and investigators. Towards this end, the Center provides the necessary infrastructure in the form of Core facilities, specialized equipment, administrative and technical support and advisory counsel to foster collaboration and research. This approach is supported by the cooperation of our Executive Committee, Core Directors and External Advisory Committees. Translating our discoveries into AIDS prevention and awareness programs for the community are equally important missions of the CFAR.
The UAB Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), situated in the Medical Center complex of the University, is one of the seven original Centers, established in 1988 by the Centers for AIDS Research at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), to stimulate research and scientific advancement concerning HIV/AIDS.
The Administrative Core (A) has served as the primary focal point for all HIV-related activities and efforts at UAB since the CFAR was initially funded in 1988. Dr. Eric Hunter was the founding Director of the Center and served from 1988 to 2004. Dr. Michael Saag took over in 2004 after having served as Co-Director from 1998 – 2004. Dr. Beatrice Hahn served as co-Director of the CFAR from 2004 - 2010. After Dr. Hahn's departure, In keeping with the tradition of Co-Directors, Drs. Michael Mugavero and Olaf Kutsch were appointed as Co-Directors this past year.
The CFAR Leadership is composed of the Director, Co-Directors Administrative Director and the Financial Administrator. The Leadership Committee (LC) meets weekly to discuss management issues, day-to-day administration, emerging challenges and opportunities. The Executive Committee (EC) is the main policy and decision-making committee of the Center and as such it is responsible for the scientific and administrative management of the CFAR. The Leadership provides guidance to the Executive Committee and leads all meetings. The EC reviews and responds to scientific progress, logistical and technical issues, as well as the metrics of performance of the Cores and Core leaders. A critical function of the EC is a review of the Scientific Agenda, the performance of the IRGs, and the progress of the existing scientific programs. See the Organization Tab for a depiction of our structure and members of these committees.
The UAB Center for AIDS Research is one of the seven original Centers established by NIAID in 1988. It has benefited over the past 20 years from Institutional leadership that has had the vision to support AIDS research to an extraordinary level, based on the deeply-held institutional belief that UAB investigators should play a leading role in combating this global plague. The mission of the UAB CFAR is to:
Support local/UAB investigators in the conduct of multidisciplinary, cutting-edge research in the prevention, pathogenesis, therapeutics, clinical care, and psychosocial manifestations of HIV and related disorders in the community, both in the United States and around the world.
The CFAR is governed by four advisory committees: the Executive Committee, External Advisory Committee, an Internal Advisory Committee and the Core Directors. The governance of the CFAR is led by the Executive Committee under the direction of the Director (Michael S Saag, MD) and Co-Directors (Michael Mugavero, MD and Olaf Kutsch, PhD).
The formula for success for the UAB CFAR is rooted in genuine multidisciplinary interactions and cross-campus collaborations that has been a hallmark for the Center since its inception. Institutional commitment, evidenced by strategic recruitment and provision of research space, resources, and annual funding from UAB Central Administration, coupled with the unique interdisciplinary environment of the UAB CFAR has allowed the HIV/AIDS research program to develop continuously over the last 25 years. This has resulted in sustained growth of UAB AIDS-related funding which has increased from $6 million in 1988 to $86 million ($70 million NIH awards) in 2012. The multidisciplinary membership base of the Center enables the rapid translation of fundamental knowledge about HIV/AIDS and its related disorders into clinical treatment, prevention programs, and effective community outreach interventions. The UAB CFAR provides infrastructure, designated research space, 7 research core facilities with specialized equipment and trained personnel, and access to developmental research funds to its over 200 members and the UAB research community. The Center has played an indispensable role in UAB's national reputation in HIV/AIDS research and care (ranked 8th in the Nation by U.S. News & World Report in 2013). The UAB CFAR has brought world-class HIV/AIDS treatment, awareness and education to Birmingham, the surrounding metro area and the state of Alabama.
Since its inception, the UAB CFAR has been particularly successful in fostering collaborative interactions that bridge basic science and clinical research, as demonstrated by the following list of 'firsts'. UAB investigators were among the first to:
- Describe the quasispecies nature of HIV
- Describe the viral pathogenesis of the acute HIV-1 viral syndrome
- Quantify plasma HIV-1 RNA as a prognostic marker and clinical disease indicator
- Introduce and test 7 of the 25 currently approved anti-HIV drugs in first-in-human clinical trials
- Evaluate triple drug combination therapy)
- Describe the viral dynamics of HIV and rapid development of drug resistance
- Establish guidelines for the use of viral load in clinical practice
- Establish proof of concept for a fusion inhibitor treatment of HIV
- Discovery of a new lineage of effector CD4+ T cells, the T-helper-17 (T(H)17) lineage, that has features distinct from classical T(H)1 and T(H)2 lineage and provides adaptive immunity tailored to specific classes of pathogens such as extracellular bacteria
- Molecular ecology and natural history of simian foamy virus in wild-living chimpanzees and application of live attenuated simian foamy virus vectors as a novel HIV-1 vaccine strategy
- Describe how innate and adaptive immune responses are able to control viral replication
- Demonstrated the role of IL-21 in CD8 T-cell responses following acute HIV-1 infection
- Established that HIV-1-reactivating agents have the ability to trigger HIV-1 reactivation without the induction of cytokine expression
- Develop the concept of Viremia Copy Years (VCYs) for use in quantifying the detrimental effects of ongoing viral replication on morbidity and mortality in HIV-infected patients
- Role of donor genital track HIV-1 diversity in the bottleneck of HIV transmission
- Highlight the role of redox homeostasis within mycobacteria as a mechanism for control of TB
- Integrate Patient Reported Outcomes, a series of brief, validated behavioral questionnaires, into clinical practice and use the data for cohort research
- Proved that single genome amplification-derived Transmission-Founder viral genomes sequences from acute infection are consistently replication competent
- Established the role of drugs with primary and secondary cell-differentiating capacity are potent HIV-1 reactivating agents and should be explored in HIV-1 Cure Research
Center membership is comprised of over 200 investigators from 33 different Departments (and 10 divisions within the Department of Medicine) and nine schools within the University. These investigators have secondary faculty appointments within the Center as they might in any other academic department. The Center investigators participate in the Center's interdisciplinary research activities through Interdisciplinary Research Programs and workgroups. Investigators who are currently involved in HIV/AIDS research are invited to join the CFAR by becoming a member. Only those with faculty appointments at UAB or our affiliates are eligible to join the CFAR as members. All others may join our email listserv.
Support the CFAR mission by acknowledging our services and programs in all grants, publications and abstracts by including: This research was supported by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Center For AIDS Research CFAR, an NIH funded program (P30 AI027767) that was made possible by the following institutes: NIAID, NCI, NICHD, NHLBI, NIDA, NIMH,NIA, FIC, and OAR.