The Immune Disease Institute has received a two-year, $150,000 award from the Annenberg Foundation to support its ongoing work in international health. The funds will support efforts to combine basic scientific research and health care delivery with the goal of halting the twin epidemics of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in Cambodia and other poor countries.
The grant is made in connection with additional funding support to the Cambodian Health Committee (CHC, www.cambodianhealthcommittee.org), a nonprofit organization that Anne Goldfeld, MD, a senior investigator at the IDI, co-founded in 1994 with Cambodian doctor Sok Thim. CHC programs include medical care, research, advocacy and training to fight tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and poverty in Cambodia, one of the poorest post-conflict countries in the world.
The new funding will allow the CHC to expand its treatment and training programs in Cambodia, and support Goldfeld’s immunology research in Boston. “Thanks to the support of the Annenberg Foundation, we can continue to make significant progress using a unique synthesis of basic scientific discovery and delivery of care,” Goldfeld said. “The ability to do fundamental research in the setting of these terrible epidemics is essential to pave the way for better treatments in the future, at the same time as we are doing our best to deal with the present emergency,” she added. “That will benefit people all over the world, not just in Cambodia.”
In the IDI lab, Goldfeld, who is also an also an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, studies the human immune system and its response to tuberculosis infection and AIDS.
By collaborating with colleagues and patients in Cambodia and elsewhere, she has made fundamental discoveries on the genetic basis of the immune response to the tuberculosis bacilli in various ethnic groups. Her work also led to the discovery of a unique set of immune T cells important in fighting off tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. That work supports clinical programs in Cambodia, where tuberculosis is the major killer of immune-suppressed HIV-infected patients.
To address this twin epidemic, the CHC is conducting a clinical trial with Goldfeld’s assistance to determine the best timing of combination HIV and tuberculosis drug treatments to maximize the patient’s recovering immune system while minimizing side effects.
Funded by the Comprehensive International Program for Research on AIDS of the United States National Institutes of Health and the French Agence Nationale Recherches sur le SIDA, the CHC study is the first-ever clinical trial of TB or HIV/AIDS treatment to take place in Cambodia.
Since its founding 14 years ago, the CHC has transformed the face of TB and AIDS care in Cambodia, from a dysfunctional system to one that has cured thousands of TB and offers the highest standard of care to thousands more with HIV. The CHC is also pioneering programs to deliver drugs for multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB and AIDS, and to provide comprehensive health care, social support, and educational opportunities to children impacted by AIDS.
“Combining the clinical outreach of the CHC with fundamental research on the immune system is the only way we will get to the vaccines and medicines of the future,” Goldfeld says. “We need to deliver treatment, but we also need discovery programs to achieve our ultimate goal of a world free of TB and AIDS.”