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Doris Duke Award

Adam Spivak M.D., VPCAT and KL2 scholar, and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, has been selected to receive a Clinical Scientist Development Award (CSDA) from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The CSDA is a three year, $450,000 grant that will provide resources for Spivak to build upon recent discoveries and launch a career as an independent physician scientist focusing on improving the management of HIV infection.

"The support of the University of Utah CCTS, through the availability of core resources, the VPCAT leadership and mentoring program, and direct KL2 research funding, has been absolutely critical in achieving this career milestone,” says Spivak. “The University clearly prioritizes the career advancement of new investigators, a distinguishing characteristic that sets it apart from other top academic medical centers."

While combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) has dramatically improved the life expectancy of people living with HIV infection, ART is not curative and requires life-long adherence to prevent the virus from rebounding and depleting the immune system. The challenge of providing indefinite treatment for everyone living with HIV infection worldwide, and the potential for long-term adverse drug effects, have made investigations into barriers that are preventing an HIV cure a global scientific priority. Spivak and his scientific mentor, Vicente Planelles, Ph.D., professor in the Department of  Pathology, have advanced a strategy making use of drugs that ‘unmask’ HIV that hides in dormant immune cells and allow for clearance of this infected reservoir by the immune system. They recently published their description of a rapid ex vivo system to screen candidate compounds using cells obtained from HIV-positive individuals on ART. This screening tool will allow researchers to identify promising drug candidates and assess for potential toxicities in order to inform pilot HIV eradication clinical trials.

The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute