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Case Western Reserve Lands NIDA Grant of up to $3M

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Case Western Reserve University has received a grant worth up to $3 million from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to conduct proteomic studies of Hepatitis C and HIV infections, Case's School of Medicine said today.

The three-year NIDA grant will fund development of proteomic and epigenetic markers for chronic immune activation during HIV disease and studies of the effects of current and prior drug use and HCV infection on disease progression and therapy.

The Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics and the Case Center for AIDS Research will conduct the study, and have received a $990,000 grant for the first year, and are slotted to receive $1 million in both 2010 and 2011.

The NIDA grant also will fund technology development in proteomics and systems biology research tools, and support collaborations between the School of Medicine, the Dental school, the Louis Stokes VA hospital, and the Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics.

"There is a pressing need to obtain objective measurements of how HIV disease progresses and to investigate whether drug abuse alters the course of HIV disease," Jonathan Karn, who is chair of the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology and director of the Case Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), said in a statement. Doctors do not have "reliable indicators of how HIV disease progresses."

The medical school's AIDS Clinical Trials Unit will provide access to the specimens needed to conduct the study.

"We will develop several pilot projects in collaboration with the CFAR investigator team to explore the proteomes of patients who have HIV or HCV, who may be on anti-retroviral therapy, and who may be drug users or in drug treatment programs," said Mark Chance, who is director of the Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics. "At the same time, specific changes in genes or epigenetic changes will also be explored."

Each of the projects the grant will support will involve direct examination of proteomic responses in either cells lining the digestive tract or immune cells and examination of plasma readouts from affected patients.

Those data will be used to inform development of technologies for analyzing epigenetic changes in the immune system. The ultimate aim is to develop biomarkers and methods that can be used in large-scale population studies of the impact of drug use on HIV disease.