McCune is among nine researchers across the country chosen to receive the prestigious award, established last year and awarded for the first time this year. The NIH Director's Pioneer Award (NDPA) program was created to identify and fund investigators of exceptionally creative abilities and to provide them with enough funding -- $500,000 per year in direct costs over five years -- to develop and test far-ranging ideas. The only constraint on the funding is that it be used for research that is relevant to the NIH mission of science in pursuit of knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems.
McCune will use the funds to further his research into the mechanisms by which HIV causes immunodeficiency, with an eye toward understanding immune responses that might prevent the development of AIDS in HIV-infected people. Such insight, he says, could lead to more effective therapeutics for those with HIV, as well as to effective vaccine strategies for those at risk of being infected with HIV.
In recent years, McCune and his Gladstone team have focused on disease-causing mechanisms of HIV infection in research mice. They have also studied HIV effects on the production of disease-fighting white blood cells in patients with HIV disease. This work has provided insights into the mechanisms that normally support the human immune system and the processes by which HIV can cause immunodeficiency.
"Now I want to know if there are certain types of immune responses that protect against infection and others that might instead slow down the pace of disease," he explains. "Perhaps more importantly, I want to apply this knowledge to the creati
Contact: John Watson
University of California - San Francisco