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MEDIA CONTACT: Gisele Galoustian

FAU Researcher Receives National Institutes of Health Grant to Support Search for Novel Therapeutics against HIV

BOCA RATON, FL (March 28, 2011) —Worldwide over 30 million adults and 2.5 million children are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV infection in humans is considered pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), and this year alone an additional 2.6 million people will be newly infected. Without treatment, HIV infected individuals develop AIDS and have a life expectancy of less than five years. To date, more than 25 million people have died of AIDS, and two million more are expected to die this year. With recent setbacks in the development of vaccines, the high mutation rate of HIV and new multi-drug resistant strains of the disease appearing with growing frequency, there is an urgent need to develop new drugs. Massimo Caputi, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical science in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, has received a competitive grant of $433,500 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health to further his research on identifying novel therapeutics for HIV.
                HIV is a virus that causes AIDS by damaging the immune system cells until the immune system can no longer fight off other infections that it would usually be able to prevent. HIV cannot reproduce on its own, and instead infects the cells of a living organism in order to replicate.
                “Antiretroviral drugs used today to treat HIV infected individuals cannot completely eliminate the virus, and the majority of these drugs target viral proteins,” said Caputi.
                HIV uses a multitude of host cellular proteins to replicate efficiently. Caputi and his colleagues are focused on the identification and characterization of these cellular factors, and have already identified more than a dozen cellular proteins that are required by the virus in order to replicate efficiently. Because cellular therapeutic targets do not undergo a high rate of mutation, the emergence of resistant viral strains is unlikely. Identifying these cellular factors provides hope for developing new therapeutics.
                “We are testing the possibility of obstructing the activity of these proteins to limit viral replication, and also exploring a novel set of technologies to further characterize the mechanism by which HIV replicates within human cells,” said Caputi.
                HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, contact with an infected person’s blood, from mother to child, use of infected blood products, and injecting drugs. The majority of people with HIV live in the developing world where AIDS is the leading cause of death. The total number of people living with HIV continues to rise in high-income countries as well. In the U.S., AIDS is the fifth leading cause of death among all adults aged 25 to 44.  Urban areas with lower socioeconomic standards are hit the most by this epidemic. South Florida with the metropolitan areas of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach has the highest infection rate in the country.

– FAU –

About Florida Atlantic University:
Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. In commemoration of its origin, FAU is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2011. Today, the University serves more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of  Education, the College of  Engineering & Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit

*Statistics Sources: UNAID (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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