Health Care

South Florida foundation awards grants for local HIV/AIDS research

A van parked advertises HIV testing at The Palace Bar's Sunday Bunch on Sunday, June 7, 2015.
A van parked advertises HIV testing at The Palace Bar's Sunday Bunch on Sunday, June 7, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

A Fort Lauderdale foundation has awarded three grants to researchers who are working toward HIV/AIDS eradication in South Florida.

The Campbell Foundation named researchers at the Children’s Diagnostic Treatment Center, Florida Atlantic University and the University of Miami as recipients of the $30,000 grants.

Ken Rapkin, a program officer at the private foundation, said that the aim was to find projects at local laboratories since Florida has the highest number of new HIV infections of any state in the country.

“We can’t in good conscience ignore what’s happening right here in our own backyard,” he said. “There’s research that is being done right here, and we need to show our commitment to it.”

Mathias Lichtenheld, a molecular biologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, will use the award to focus on two projects that study the interaction of the immune system and the HIV virus. A second project at the Children’s Diagnostic Center will study the use of PrEP, the daily-dose drug designed to prevent HIV infection in high-risk populations. The final grant is for research at Florida Atlantic University that will examine using a cellular protein to stop HIV replication in T-cells.

The $30,000 grants pale in comparison to some of the grants offered by deep-pocketed organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but Rapkin said he hoped this would provide researchers with enough data from their projects to eventually approach larger organizations and continue their work.

“We provide the seed money to get them off the ground,” he said.

The foundation has awarded nearly $10 million in HIV/AIDS research grants since its inception in 1995.