At the end of September 2012, the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) submitted its competitive renewal application for continued funding of its research from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The next step of the process involves a peer review of the grant submission organized by NIAID, says Sarah Read, MD, Director of Therapeutics Research at DAIDS.
“We will look at the results of the peer review and put together a funding plan,” Read says. “We are very eager to make plans and continue to work together with the ACTG.”
An infectious diseases physician, Read says she was drawn to the field, and HIV research in particular, because there is potential for millions of patients to be positively affected by breakthroughs in treating the virus.
“I specialized in HIV research because of the global impact of the epidemic,” Read says. “I really enjoy the problem-solving aspect of infectious disease research. You use the clues the patient gives you to determine a diagnosis and then use your knowledge of the disease to develop a treatment plan. Immunology and the human immune system’s ability to ward off infection fascinate me.”
Read came to NIAID in 2001, completing her clinical fellowship in infectious diseases. She then worked for the organization as a researcher in the Laboratory of Immunoregulation. In 2006, she accepted the position of medical officer in the HIV Research Branch of DAIDS. In early October 2012, Read stepped into the role of Director of Therapeutics Research at DAIDS, having served as acting director since February.
“My new role is really exciting,” Read says. “It has a broader focus than my job as medical officer. As director, I play a role in the assessment and management of the overall research portfolio for the program. I enjoy figuring out how we can address gaps in the portfolio.”
Three clinical trials groups receive funding from Read’s office including the ACTG, the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials group (IMPAACT) and the International Network for Strategic Initiatives in Global HIV Trials (INSIGHT).
“DAIDS works with ACTG leadership to jointly develop research priorities and then we work on individual protocols with ACTG researchers as well,” Read says. “It’s a collaborative process.”
When asked about her vision for the future of HIV research, Read pinpoints three areas. The first area is prevention and treatment of important co-infections, Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and tuberculosis (TB). The prevention and treatment of complications and comorbidities experienced by HIV-infected patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the second focus Read identifies as a priority.
“Once a patient has been on ART what’s left to target? What are the factors that contribute to comorbidities?” Read asks. “We need to look at strategies for improving outcomes of patients on ART.”
Her third and final goal for the future of HIV research is the question on everyone’s mind – is there a cure?
“Focusing on how HIV becomes latent and how we can target latent infections to cure a person is the ultimate goal,” Read says. “The ACTG has placed itself in a good position to address all three of these priorities for future HIV research.”