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August 2009

Release Date: Aug. 6, 2009ASU Logo

ASU Chemistry Prof Wins National Grant for AIDS Research

Dr. John Osterhout, head of the Angelo State University Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has been awarded a two-year, $312,151 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct research toward a potential cure for AIDS.

Awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the grant is designated R21 for exploratory/developmental research on a high risk/high reward project. It is the first R21 grant ever awarded to ASU.

Osterhout’s project is titled, “Development of Therapeutics to Eliminate HIV.” His objective is to develop Trojan Horse Inhibitors (THIs) to eliminate the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. THIs are small, specially-designed protein molecules that are harmless until activated by a viral component called the HIV protease. Once activated, the THIs kill the cell in which the virus is trying to reproduce. The basic idea is that uninfected cells are not harmed while infected cells are eliminated. Thus, the THIs could provide a cure for AIDS.

According to Osterhout, most of the current anti-HIV drugs merely slow the replication of the virus. THIs could provide a mechanism to eliminate the virus completely. THIs could also serve as a substitute for an HIV vaccine until a vaccine can be developed, prevent the spread of the virus immediately after infection and prevent transmission of the virus between mother and child.

The National Institutes of Health is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. NIH scientists investigate ways to prevent disease as well as the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare illnesses. Composed of 27 institutes and centers, the NIH provides leadership and financial support to researchers in every state and throughout the world.