Advancing HIV Cure Research Workshop

8 November 2016

The first South African ‘Advancing HIV Cure Research Workshop’ took place in Stellenbosch on the 6-7th October 2016. The workshop was chaired by Professor Carolyn Williamson and Dr Melissa-Rose Abrahams from the Division of Medical Virology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Dr Nigel Garrett from CAPRISA, and was supported by the South African Medical Research Council and the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The workshop assembled key stakeholders and representatives involved in HIV cure research and related fields from institutions across the country and abroad with the goal to discuss the latest findings in the field - to identify gaps, and to set priorities for clinical translational cure research in South Africa.

Presentations included advancements in potential interventions to deplete or silence the latent viral reservoir such as the use of broadly neutralizing antibody therapies and gene silencing through targeted stem cell therapy, CRISPR/Cas9 or gene methylation, and the use of targeted radionuclide therapy (conventionally a cancer treatment) for visualizing and targeting anatomical reservoir sites using radioisotopes, and its potential use for assessing efficacy of reservoir clearance in cure trials. The UCT team presented new technologies for characterizing the size and sequence composition of the latent reservoir, including next-generation sequencing and digital droplet PCR, in women from the CAPRISA 002 Acute Infection cohort. This was followed by a presentation on the Females Rising through Education, Support, and Health (FRESH) acute infection cohort, and the proposal of future clinical studies using therapeutic vaccinations.  Glaudina Loots (DST), a board member of the IAS Towards an HIV Cure Initiative, stressed the need for collaboration and inter-disciplinary research in particular, between early career HIV and cancer researchers.

Back row (L-R): Walter Nevondo, Simone Richardson, Thumbi Ngund'u, Colin Anthony, Rebecca Van Dorsten, Penny Moore, Lynn Morris, Britt Hanson, Deelan Doolabh, Sherazaan Ismail, Yumna Moosa, Debbie Stewart, Mike Sathekge, Veron Ramsuran, Wendy Burgers. Front Row: Glaudina Loots, Melissa-Rose Abrahams, Carolyn Williamson, Ron Swanstrom, Nigel Garrett, Michelle Mulder