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NIH selects Pittsburgh institute as leader for HIV/AIDS prevention efforts

Pittsburgh, June 30 The University of Pittsburgh-affiliated Magee-Womens Research Institute is one of six institutions selected to lead HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Estimated at $285 million in funding for the first year, these leadership group awards represent the first step of a two-part restructuring process of the NIAID's clinical trials networks.

Sharon L. Hillier, Ph.D., professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and of molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is principal investigator for the Pittsburgh consortium, which has been designated to lead the Microbicide Trials Network (MTN). The mission of the MTN is to develop new drugs and drug delivery systems to prevent HIV and its spread.

"The leading method of transmission for HIV/AIDS infection today is heterosexual intercourse," said Dr. Hillier, who also is a senior investigator at the Magee-Womens Research Institute. "And in many parts of the world, a woman's single biggest risk factor for the acquisition of HIV is being married. Currently, women have no way to protect themselves except condoms, and women do not control condom use."

Dr. Hillier's group is involved in evaluating drugs for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. Clinical trials have been designed to support the licensing of new agents for the prevention of HIV that could be used by women at risk of infection both in the U.S. and internationally. NIAID's decision to fund the MTN reflects a growing recognition that novel approaches to prevention will be needed to slow the epidemic of AIDS.

"Pittsburgh proved its scientific worth more than 50 years ago when the development of the Salk vaccine signaled an end to the scourge of polio," said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice
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Contact: Michele Baum
BaumMD@upmc.edu
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
30-Jun-2006


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