France & Ireland together against AIDS
The Franco-Irish partnership between Dr Gautier’s team (University College Dublin) and Prof. Rohr’s (University of Strasbourg), which started with a Ulysses scheme, has just obtained a H2020 funding for their research consortium against the AIDS-virus, "EU4HIVCURE".
Dr Virginie Gautier, you are working as a Principal Investigator in University College Dublin. You are working on the AIDS-virus. Could you tell us more about your research?
I work in the Centre for Research in Infectious Disesases (CRID) (University College Dublin) where I lead a dynamic group of researchers. Our research programme focuses on the latent reservoirs of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or the “AIDS virus”. These reservoirs, where the virus remains in a “dormant” state, allow the virus to remain “hidden” and to persist despite antiretroviral treatments, which can reduce efficiently the viremia below detection limit. These latent reservoirs constitute a major obstacle to an HIV cure. Hence to keep the virus under control, HIV-positive individuals have to undergo life-long treatments, when they can have access to it. Current HIV cure strategies have the ambition of “waking up” these viral reservoirs, hence making them accessible and visible to treatments and to our immune system, and ultimately reduce or eliminate them.
You are working on the molecular mechanisms of HIV latency?
To accelerate HIV CURE research, our aim is to delineate the virus-host interface and its specific role in controlling HIV latency. We have developed an exploratory platform including system-wide proteomic and genomic screening tools to characterise new cellular actors likely to regulate HIV latency, and most importantly identify and validate novel key druggable targets. Our research programme is funded by UCD, the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Irish Research Council (IRC). And I would also like to acknowledge our network of collaborators in Ireland, Europe and Canada, whose support is essential for the success of our research programme.
You have just obtained the H2020-RISE-2015 funding for the international network « EU4HIVCURE », coordinated by UCD. How was this network built?
It all started with a Franco-Irish collaboration with Professor Olivier Rohr from the University of Strasbourg which came into fruition at the beginning of 2014 with a Ulysses grant, which is attributed by the Irish Research Council and the French Departments for Foreign Affairs and for Research. This bilateral interaction has now grown into an international network: the “EU4HIVCURE” Consortium, constituted of 6 European and one Canadian partners:
Pr Patrick Mallon (Mater Misericordiae University Hospital) and I are representing Ireland,
Pr Carine Van Lint (Université Libre of Bruxelles) and Pr Stéphane de Wit (Hôpital Universitaire of Saint-Pierre) Belgium,
Pr Olivier Rohr (University of Strasbourg) France,
Dr Alessandro Marcello (ICGEB) Italy and
Dr Nicolas Chomont (University of Montreal) Canada.
Together, we have developed the research programme EU4HIVCURE for which we were awarded the Horizon 2020 RISE funding in 2015.
And which goals are set for the consortium?
Our EU4HIVCURE consortium has specific goals at stake. First, to facilitate the development and exchange of knowledge, technologies and cutting edge tools in order to accelerate HIV Cure research in Europe. Then, we want to expedite the translational continuum thanks to a dynamic collaboration between scientists and clinicians. In other words, our framework seeks to advance basic research to better understand the mechanisms behind HIV latency, and then to transform this knowledge into new therapeutic strategies. But, the particularity of our programme is to maximise the training of young researchers, by giving them the opportunity, through exchanges and visits, to work in our centres of excellence in Europe and in Canada and to gain critical insights from this unique collaborative environment. We aim to deliver the next generation of researchers in the field of infectious diseases.