Miriam’s renowned HIV/AIDS program receives $9.1M federal grant

June 1, 2018

Collaborators include Brown University and a new partner, Boston University/Boston Medical Center

The Miriam Hospital has been awarded a $9.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund new and continuing initiatives at its Providence/Boston Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), a collaboration between the Lifespan health system, Brown University and Boston University/Boston Medical Center.

The five-year grant supports a major new relationship between two prominent universities: Brown University in Rhode Island and Boston University in Massachusetts, along with their affiliated medical centers, Lifespan and Boston Medical Center. The relationship significantly enhances the substantial resources and expertise of the Providence/Boston CFAR. 

The grant also reflects a timely new emphasis of CFAR to address the relationship between HIV and substance use disorder – just as public health officials are seeking to curb the nation's deadly and costly opioid epidemic. Each of the participating academic institutions operate NIH-funded HIV and alcohol research centers. 

Based at The Miriam Hospital, the Providence/Boston CFAR has secured continuous NIH funding since its founding in 1998 by former infectious disease chief Charles C. J. Carpenter, MD, and this year it's celebrating its 20th anniversary. The new funding is an acknowledgement that HIV/AIDS continues to pose a serious threat around the world and that the center produces valuable multidisciplinary research to help battle the disease.  

Along with the new emphasis on substance use disorders, the Providence/Boston CFAR maintains a special focus on women, MSM (men who have sex with men), at-risk youth, and individuals in the criminal justice system. Its research is aimed at preventing and treating the disease here in the United States and in highly pandemic regions around the world including, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Central Europe.

"This is very exciting," said Susan Cu-Uvin, MD, director of the Providence/Boston CFAR and an HIV physician at The Miriam as well as a faculty member at Brown's Warren Alpert Medical School and the School of Public Health.  "CFAR is devoted to translational research. Its primary goal is to improve the lives of people with HIV/AIDS.  There is no reason to do this if it doesn't reach the people who need it – in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and all around the world. "

She continued, "It's not a science grant. It's a service grant to support investigators to become researchers in the HIV/AIDS field. If you're tied to a clinic, there's no way you can do research. The grant allows us to attract young people who are promising investigators. We have the resources and mentorship they need."  

Currently, CFAR investigators have secured over $30 million in NIH-funded research in addition to $18.6 million from non-NIH sources, and $3.8 million in institutional support from the collaborating institutions for the next five-year cycle. The center provides services to over 250 faculty members from participating sites including international collaborators and those in Providence and Boston.

"The funding allows Brown faculty and trainees to continue to interact with our colleagues in Boston on cutting-edge HIV/AIDS research," said Jack A. Elias, MD, senior vice president for health affairs and dean of medicine and biological sciences at Brown University. "CFAR is central to the HIV/AIDS research at The Warren Alpert Medical School because it provides critical funding for basic science, clinical, translational, and behavioral studies and for the training of new investigators."

“Collaboration is the hallmark of HIV research and education, and this support reinforces the successful partnerships between our institutions,” said Bess Marcus, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University. “Because of the expertise of researchers in biology, medicine and public health, HIV has gone from a deadly infectious disease to a chronic illness that affords those afflicted with the chance to live a longer life. Continued work alongside our talented partners will lead to further advances in testing and treatment, and most importantly, improvements in the outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS.”

Dr. Cu-Uvin praised Boston University/Boston Medical Center for their participation and said the Boston institutions bring invaluable expertise and resources to CFAR. The new collaboration could potentially leverage even greater funding from NIH in future grant cycles, she said.

Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, the Robert A. Knox Professor and dean of the School of Public Health at Boston University, said, "I am delighted to partner with Brown in this award. This is consistent with our strategic direction as a school and I am much looking forward to seeing how this award will create more opportunities for science and scholarship by our faculty, bridging the two schools."

Karen Antman, MD, dean of the Boston University School of Medicine and provost of the medical campus, said, “We are looking forward to substantial progress in HIV research with this important new NIH funded regional collaboration.” 

“The expertise of HIV/AIDS and substance use disorders among CFAR partners will allow for the advancement of treatment and research at the intersection of these critical public health issues,” said Boston Medical Center President and CEO Kate Walsh.  

The Providence/Boston Center for AIDS Research is a joint research effort between Brown University/Lifespan and Boston University/Boston Medical Center. It is devoted to the pursuit of translational research to reduce HIV infection worldwide by fostering emerging HIV investigators both domestically and within resource-limited settings abroad. CFAR works closely with health departments in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well criminal justice systems and community organizations.

Richard Salit

Senior Public Relations Officer
The Miriam Hospital, Newport Hospital, Gateway Healthcare