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Wistar Institute HIV Researcher Wins Two Grants to Explore Using CAR T Cells as HIV Therapy

October 9, 2023

Dr. Daniel Claiborne of The Wistar Institute was recently awarded two grants to support studying an approach to optimize CAR T cells, a type of engineered cell, for use against HIV. Claiborne, a Caspar Wistar Fellow in Wistar’s Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center, received a Target Grant for $120,000 from amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, and was also awarded a $65,000 grant from The Campbell Foundation.

The grants will enable Dr. Claiborne to engineer a panel of CAR T cells targeting non-traditional portions of the HIV viral envelope, or outer protein, and test them in a mouse model.

CAR T cells, or chimeric antigen receptor T cells, are patient-derived T cells that have been engineered to target and destroy a specific antigen on the surface of a cancer cell. They are considered “super charged” immune cells that act like a living drug, latching onto a tumor cell to terminate it. CAR T cells have been developed as an immunotherapy for cancer, but Dr. Claiborne explores their potential against HIV.

“My research has focused specifically on identifying the hurdles in repurposing CAR T cells for HIV, and how we can overcome those hurdles to develop an effective treatment,” explained Claiborne. “These grants will enable us to continue working toward that goal, test the approach, and uncover how we can use CAR T cells to develop a successful HIV therapy.”

Dr. Claiborne joined Wistar as a Caspar Wistar Fellow in 2021 from the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, where he focused his work on better understanding T cells and CAR T cells for the treatment of HIV.

Launched in 2019, The Caspar Wistar Fellows Program is designed to offer exceptional autonomy and resources to recent Ph.D. or M.D. graduates with outstanding research records, who are prepared to take an accelerated path toward independence as principal investigators and join the next generation of scientific leaders.
Caspar Wistar Fellows are appointed for a three-year term with the possibility of extending or being considered for promotion. The Program enables scientists to quickly outfit their lab by offering start-up funds to purchase materials, hire laboratory staff, and access the state-of-the-art shared resources at the Institute.

About amfAR

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and advocacy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $635 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,500 grants to research teams worldwide.

About The Campbell Foundation

The Campbell Foundation was established in 1995 by the late Richard Campbell Zahn as a private, independent, nonprofit foundation dedicated to supporting clinical, laboratory-based research into the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. It focuses its funding on supporting alternative, nontraditional avenues of research. The Campbell Foundation has given away more than $12 million since its inception.