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With Philadelphia Foundation Grant, Wistar Advances COVID-19 and Monkeypox Vaccine Response in Vulnerable Populations

March 27, 2023

An $80,000 grant for The Wistar Institute’s HIV-1 Patient Partnership for Basic Research program from the Robert I. Jacobs Fund of Philadelphia Foundation not only advances ongoing basic research into ways to prevent, treat and ultimately cure HIV, but underscores the power of partnership between research centers and community-based organizations in fighting healthcare inequities faced by vulnerable populations.

The latest funding continues more than a quarter century of longstanding support by the Philadelphia Foundation for innovative HIV research advanced in the Wistar lab of Dr. Luis Montaner, a bench-to-bedside immunologist with a focus on HIV cure strategies and cancer.

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic and emergence of monkeypox in 2022, Dr. Montaner’s work has evolved to now include pilot studies on SARS-CoV-2 and monkeypox (MPX) vaccination outcomes in persons living with HIV as well as a study of persons with a prior history of monkeypox infection. Studies include persons living with HIV as well as other marginalized persons with substance use disorder.

The partnership pairs the innovative biomedical research happening in his Wistar lab with educational activities, community engagement and donor recruitment programs offered by clinical sites throughout the City of Philadelphia, including Philadelphia FIGHT’s Jonathan Lax Clinic and the John Bell Health Center; and, more recently, Prevention Point Philadelphia. The unique partnership between Wistar and Philadelphia Foundation inspired new federal criteria requiring greater community engagement across all Martin Delaney Collaboratories for HIV Cure Research programs by including a partnership with community-based organizations. The BEAT-HIV program based at The Wistar Institute has prioritized community engagement from the start due to long-standing support by the Philadelphia Foundation.

“Maintaining our Philadelphia community-based academic research collaboration is critical to our continued success, as this productive city-wide partnership distinguishes us among all HIV research centers in the U.S.,” said Dr. Montaner, director of Wistar’s HIV-1 Immunopathogenesis Laboratory and leader of the HIV Research Program, Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center. “Wistar is proud to be a partner with our community in research and thankful for all that have shared in this common vision for over 25 years.”