The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday May 10th

AIDS research foundation meets at UNC

UNC is hosting the third annual meeting of the Collaboratory of AIDS Researchers for Eradication at the Carolina Inn through Friday. 

The group, a project of the National Health Institute, is a collaboration between universities, private companies and research institutions aimed at curing AIDS and eradicating the HIV virus founded in 2011.

At the welcome ceremony and reception, Chancellor Carol Folt addressed researchers and partners of CARE. Folt highlighted the importance of their work in studying infectious diseases, and said the university was honored to host the event.

"It's so exciting to think that, as the nation's oldest university, we can be a model for addressing one of the world's great problems," she said. 

Lawrence Fox, senior medical officer in the HIV research branch of the National Institute of Health, said the program goes far beyond curing HIV and AIDS. 

"In the pursuit of eradication, we gain an understanding of the immune system," Fox said. "This research on the consequences of the inflammatory process can be applied to aging, cancer and and many other problems the medical world is working on right now." 

Folt said CARE offers students the opportunity to work closely with professors. 

"The professors working in the program serve as a model for students, so that they may become interested in curing infectious diseases," Fold said. "We are training the world's next great problem solvers."  

David Margolis, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, and epidemiology, has worked closely with UNC graduate students while conducting research for CARE. 

Perry Tsai, a graduate student in UNC's school of medicine, works for CARE under Victor Garcia-Martinez to activate HIV from latency, one of the keys to eradication outlined by CARE.

"At one point I was having trouble in the lab, and my professor sent out an email to five or six people in the CARE group, and they responded with some ideas for my research," Tsai said. 

Jenna Bone, also a graduate student of Garcia-Martinez, said one of the biggest benefits of the collaboratory is the sharing of methods, models and testing procedures. 

"It's important to bring researches together to say 'what would happen if we used this model?' or 'have you considered using this technique?' It really adds to the scientific process," Bone said. 

Folt hopes this program will inspire more students to take in interest in the field of infectious diseases.  

For Folt, reading "Fever," a novel about scientists searching for a cure to a disease outbreak, led her to admire the work of scientists.

"In this book, they took on the amazing complications of trying to deal with infectious disease, much like these scientists here now," Folt said. 

"We've all dreamed about working across disciplines. This program is about working across disciplines, and making that process work towards an ambitious goal." 

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com

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