The Fund for Scientific Research against AIDS, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, and the Belgian HIV Research Consortium - BREACH - have joined forces. This means that support can be provided for a research project in the field of HIV and AIDS every two years. The first call for projects was launched in 2022, with a focus on fundamental research. A single project received 400,000 euros, which will fund four years of work. Research continues to be important, because although AIDS is no longer front-page news, the disease has not yet been eradicated.
In 2022 a first joint call for projects was launched by the Fund for Scientific Research against AIDS and BREACH, the Belgian HIV Research Consortium. The consortium includes all HIV reference centres and laboratories in Belgium, as well as scientific research groups and interest organisations in the fields of HIV infection and AIDS. Its aim is to maximise the synergies between the members, working in complete transparency. An independent international jury selected one project to receive the award. This is a collaboration involving a large number of research institutions including Ghent University and Ghent University Hospital, ULB and CHU Saint-Pierre, KU Leuven and UZ Leuven, VUB and UZ Brussels and Liège University Hospital.
The aim of this project is to characterise in detail the dynamic aspects of the latent HIV reservoir in patients who have the virus. This is a major challenge, because the latent HIV reservoir - all the cells in which the virus is ‘dormant’ but not accessible to antiviral medications - is the main obstacle to curing HIV/AIDS.
The approach is to compare the behaviour of this reservoir in two groups of patients with HIV, one group who have received treatment for a short time and another group who have been on antiretroviral treatment for more than 20 years. As well as a detailed analysis of the characteristics of the reservoir of integrated virus, the patients’ immunological profiles will also be studied in detail and correlated with the virological characteristics. New treatment strategies to neutralise or “clean out” this reservoir will be assessed in the laboratory using blood samples from different groups of patients.
This project is being funded jointly by BREACH and the Fund for Scientific Research against AIDS, which is managed by the KBF. It forms part of a wider international research network focusing on achieving remission or even a cure for HIV/AIDS. It is an illustration of the high quality of AIDS research in Belgium and the ability to bring together the work of all the country’s research teams.
The next two calls for projects will focus on clinical research (2024) and public health (2026).
Fund for Scientific Research against AIDS
The Fund for Scientific Research against AIDS provides financial support to high-quality scientific research into AIDS in Belgium. Where possible the Fund collaborates with experts and other funding providers in this area. Since 2010 the Fund for Scientific Research against AIDS has already provided support totalling almost 2 million euros to projects in diverse areas such as translational research in clinical virology, epidemiology, prevention and health promotion, as well as fundamental research.
A lot of progress has been made during this time in terms of preventive strategies and treatment, but this research is still necessary to allow us to meet the UNAIDS goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030.