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Scripps Florida Scientists Receive $2.8 Million to Develop Innovative Approach to Latent HIV Infection

JUPITER, FL, July 16, 2015 – Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have been awarded a pair of grants totaling nearly $2.8 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of The National Institutes of Health to develop a new therapeutic agent to reduce latent levels of HIV that hide from the immune system in infected individuals.

TSRI Associate Professor Susana Valente will be the principal investigator of the multiyear grants.

“Our approach is aimed at a novel antiviral target, a protein known as a potent activator of HIV gene expression,” Valente said. “With this new funding, we can continue to develop our approach to the difficult problem of HIV latency, finding a way to suppress the virus in these latently infected cells.”

Valente’s research is focused on blocking the Tat protein, which is essential for viral amplification.

In the new project, Valente’s team will explore the potential of didehydro-Cortistatin A (dCA), a molecule closely related to a natural compound isolated from a marine sponge, to reduce the size of the latent reservoir pool of HIV by blocking ongoing viral replication, reactivation and replenishment.

“The new grant will help us confirm didehydro-Cortistatin A as workable inhibitor and better understand the mechanism of viral resistance to it,” Valente said.

The numbers of the grants are 1R21AI112462 and 1R01AI118432.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is one of the world's largest independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. TSRI is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs more than 2,500 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists—including two Nobel laureates and 20 members of the National Academy of Science, Engineering or Medicine—work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. For more information, see

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Susana Valente is an associate professor at the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute. (High-res image)