May 27, 2002
MEDIA CONTACT: Trent Stockton
PHONE: 410-955-8665

Siliciano Named A Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

Johns Hopkins AIDS researcher and immunologist Robert F. Siliciano, M.D., Ph.D., has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. He is one of 12 physician- scientists recently selected by HHMI for their achievements in patient-oriented research.

Siliciano, professor of medicine and of molecular biology and genetics, will remain at Hopkins but receive from HHMI an annual research budget of up to $1 million, plus funding for laboratory space, as part of the institute's effort to improve the translation of basic science discoveries into enhanced patient treatment. HHMI, one of the world's largest philanthropies, is a nonprofit medical research organization with about 320 investigators.

Siliciano's research seeks to prevent or treat HIV infection through the development of new vaccines and drug therapies. Several years ago, Siliciano and colleagues discovered how HIV hides in the body. Combination drug therapy for HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, can reduce the HIV level in the blood to undetectable amounts in many patients. But Siliciano discovered that a resting, or latent, form of the virus can remain hidden inside inactive immune cells, called memory T cells, making the risk of developing AIDS a lifelong threat for those with HIV-1 infection, even for patients on effective antiretroviral therapy.

Siliciano's laboratory is currently unraveling the mechanisms by which these reservoirs of latent HIV-1 are established and maintained. The information could lead to ways to target and eradicate the reservoirs. His group is also developing experimental AIDS vaccines and investigating how current drug therapy affects the evolution of HIV-1, a major barrier to the effectiveness of therapy over time.

Born in Rochester, New York, in 1952, Siliciano attended Princeton University before coming to Hopkins for medical school in 1974. He received his M.D. in 1978, and his Ph.D. in molecular biology and genetics in 1983, both from Hopkins. From 1983 to 1986, he completed postdoctoral fellowships at Hopkins, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard University, and was an instructor in pathology at Harvard until 1988, when he returned to Hopkins as an assistant professor of medicine. He was promoted to associate professor in 1992 and to full professor in 1998. He received the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award in 2001.

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