One of the things that has made the HIV epidemic so difficult to control is the virus’ ability to evolve, creating drug-resistant strains. Two Georgia State University professors have received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to find medications to fight these new strains of the disease.
Weber’s co-principal investigator, Professor Robert Harrison of Computer Science, is a specialist in computational chemistry and in bioinformatics, which uses computers to compile and visualize vast amounts of biological data.
In earlier phases of the project, Weber and her team found a unique drug resistance mechanism in some strains of HIV. The team’s maps of the virus have also led to the design of new drugs that are 10 times as effective as darunavir, a common treatment for drug-resistant HIV.
The NIH grant will fund the continuation of the team’s work. The team will continue to integrate different approaches – computational chemistry, X-ray crystallography, and other biophysical and biochemical techniques – to clarify the protein structure of drug-resistant HIV strains. The goal is to use those insights in designing new drugs.
Other researchers on the grant include Professor Arun Ghosh of Purdue University (who discovered darunavir), Hiroaki Mitsuya, senior investigator with the National Cancer Institute, and Dr. John Louis of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.