UNC Awarded $23 Million Grant for HIV Research

UNC will continue its innovative “kick and kill” initiative for eradicating HIV after being chosen to receive funding from The National Institutes of Health.

Over the next five years, UNC will receive funding of nearly $23 million after being chosen from a competitive application process by the NIH, according to a release from the university.

David Margolis, MD, Professor of Medicine at UNC and Principal Investigator of CARE (Collaboratory of AIDS Researchers for Eradication), said in a release that he believes CARE was chosen for funding for several reasons.

“As we seek to both do discovery science and progress new therapies, our long-standing collaboration with Merck was extremely productive. We have now developed a new and unique partnership with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which resulted in Qura Therapeutics,” Margolis said.

UNC and GSK announced the partnership behind Qura Theraputics in May 2015.

CARE was first funded in 2011 through its Martin Delaney Collaboratory program for HIV cure research. It was the first major funding initiative to focus on eradicating HIV from the body, according to a release.

The “kick and kill” initiative for curing HIV involves waking up latent or sleeping virus in the body and boosting the immune system. The plan is then to have the immune system to recognize the virus and eradicate it.

Margolis said that researchers will now be able to take what they have learned over the last five years into the next five years through this grant.

“Over the next five years we will develop better ways to detect, measure and reverse latency. We will find ways to pair latency reversal with clearance of the virus because these two parts of the strategy must work together,” Margolis said.


Homeownership, Scholarship, Taxes And Snow Days

Are you thinking about buying a home? Wondering how you can afford it?

Chatham Habitat for Humanity and EmPOWERment are co-hosting a two-part Home Buyer’s Education Workshop in Pittsboro, on Thursday, March 6 and Thursday, March 13 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. You’ll learn tips for shopping for homes and mortgages, how to financially prepare, and how to maintain your home after you’ve bought it.

The workshop takes place at 467 West Street in Pittsboro. It’s free and open to the public; dinner, door prizes and child care will be provided. To RSVP, contact Amanda Stancil at EmPOWERment by calling 967-8779, or Anna Schmalz Rodriguez at Chatham Habitat by calling 542-0794.


Congratulations to Casey Rimland, a medical and doctoral student in the UNC School of Medicine who was recently named as a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

Created with a donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship provides students with a three-year full scholarship to study at Cambridge University in England. Between 80 and 100 Gates Scholarships are awarded annually; Rimland is the second honoree from UNC.

Casey Rimland is originally from Charlotte and graduated from UNC-Charlotte in 2011. She’s also a thyroid cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in her first year of medical school.


To compensate for all the snow days, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board has updated the district’s class schedule for the rest of the school year.

There were three remaining days on the district’s calendar that were set aside as delayed-opening days, but all three have now been changed to regular school days. Those three days are March 13, April 10 and May 8 – all originally delayed opening, but now functioning as regular, full school days. Students should report to school at the regular time.


Congratulations to the AVID students from Smith Middle School, winners of this year’s sixth annual Black History Knowledge Bowl!

The event is sponsored every year by the Mu Omicron Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. It’s a competition between students at Culbreth, McDougle and Smith Middle Schools who participate in the AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination). This year’s Knowledge Bowl took place at Culbreth Middle School on February 22; Smith took first and Culbreth took second.


Results are in for the Town of Chapel Hill’s Community Survey, and the numbers indicate that—for the most part—residents are extremely happy with the town’s services.

More than 90 percent of residents who responded say they’re satisfied with the town’s fire department, library, and trash collection services; more than 80 percent say they’re satisfied with Chapel Hill’s park maintenance and police department. Those numbers are “well above regional and national benchmarks,” according to a release from the Town.

On the down side, residents said they were most concerned with traffic congestion and “how well the Town is preparing for the future,” and also said the Town could do a better job providing affordable housing and “access to quality shopping.”

You can check out the full results at TownOfChapelHill.org/survey.


It’s tax season—and if you need tax forms, the Orange County Public Library is offering select forms for free. Those forms include the 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, Schedule A, Schedule B and Schedule SE.

In addition, the Orange County Department on Aging is offering its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program—VITA for short—which provides free income tax preparation for qualifying individuals with low- to middle-incomes, regardless of age or county of residence.

For more information or to find out if you qualify, visit OrangeCountyNC.gov/aging/VITA.asp.


UNC has received a grant of more than $40 million from the National Institutes of Health, to fund a global clinical trials unit working to treat and prevent the spread of HIV.

The grant will fund five clinical research sites through the year 2021. Three of those sites are located in North Carolina; the other two are located in Africa, in Malawi and Zambia.

UNC received $430 million in external funding for HIV research between 2008 and 2012. The university is ranked as one of the top 10 programs in America for HIV/AIDS research.



Lungs’ Unique Viability: Transplant Procedure Seeks To Save Lives

CHAPEL HILL –  Lungs have the ability to live longer than other organs after a person dies. If the lungs are recovered from an organ donor in time, it may lead to transplant operations that could save thousands of lives.

With a $4.2 million National Institutes of Health grant, the UNC School of Medicine is breaking ground with a clinical trial that tests an innovative method of recovering healthy lungs from donors who suffer sudden death outside a hospital.

Dr. Thomas Egan, professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the UNC of Medicine, is leading the trial. Through research, he found the lungs’ unique ability to stay alive.

“The reason the lung lives for hours after people die is because the lung has a supply of oxygen in all of the tiny little air sacs in the airwaves,” Egan says. “The cell in those airwaves and air sacs live off oxygen in the lungs, and they don’t rely on blood flow in order to get oxygen.”

Other organs require oxygen to be present through blood circulation.

Only 1,800 lungs a year are transplanted from conventional, brain dead organ donors who have died in a hospital. And many of that number, only 25 percent are found to be suitable for transplant.

“There maybe upwards of 40,000 patients that might be candidates for lung transplants to help them breathe better and live longer in frankly a much more improved quality of life if there were enough lungs to transplant.”

Egan says there is a great need for healthy lungs.

“Lung disease is now the third-leading cause of deaths in the United States,” he says. “While it is far behind cancer and cardiovascular disease, there are close to 200,000 deaths every year from in-stage lung disease.”

The trial has two crucial parts. The first step is retrieving the lungs, departing from the normal donation process.

Currently, the organs of registered donors who die outside of hospitals are not used. This is where Egan says the difference can be made.

There is a one to two hour window for the lungs to be recovered after the donor has died.

If emergency workers determine that the patient cannot be resuscitated, the local organ recovery agency will step in to contact the next-of-kin for permission to participate in the clinical trial.

Once permission is granted, emergency workers will then pump a small amount of air into the lungs to preserve them during the transport to a hospital.

Part two of the trial begins once the lungs arrive at the hospital.

Inside a dome-shaped machine, Egan’s lab perfuses and ventilates the lungs with a special solution to determine suitability for transplantation. The liquid is met to flow like blood would inside the lungs.

When the lungs are found to be healthy, the organs will be transplanted to patients who have consented under FDA- and IRB-approved standards and practices.

The trial pools together the cooperation of organizations such as the emergency rooms of UNC and Duke Hospitals; Wake County EMS; and Carolina Donor Services, the regional organ procurement organization.

If the trial proves successful, Egan believes it could lead to revolutionizing the organ donation process in the United States.

“Other organs might be salvaged down the road if we can change the whole paradigm of what happens to individuals after death if they have indicated a desire to be an organ donor.”

Egan was recruited by the UNC School of Medicine to start the lung transplant program in 1989.