Established in 1998, the award aims to give early-career physicians-scientists the time and resources needed to focus on clinical research, as they often face the demands of balancing both patient care and research responsibilities. The $495,000 three-year grant will support Dr. Dupnik’s research on how integration of HIV DNA into the host cell’s genome impacts and is impacted by tuberculosis (TB) infection.
“This grant is a huge honor and I feel very fortunate to have received it,” said Dr. Dupnik, who is also a member of the Center for Global Health and an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine. “The clinical scientist development award allows me to continue my research and branch into new areas of host-pathogen study.”
Through her work, Dr. Dupnik is looking at the interaction between HIV and tuberculosis. While advancements in treatments have allowed people with HIV to live healthy lives and maintain long-term viral suppression, research shows that they can still maintain “HIV reservoirs,” inactive reserves of the virus stored in their cells. The larger the reserve, the worse the long-term health outcome.
A history of treated tuberculosis in people with HIV is tied to a greater risk of not only getting tuberculosis again but also of death, said Dr. Dupnik. “Both conditions might impact one another — an increased tuberculosis risk might be tied to a larger HIV reservoir that itself might stem from the presence of a past tuberculosis infection.” Even when people with HIV are on antiretroviral therapy, they still have an increased risk of TB, she said.
This work, which is being done in collaboration with GHESKIO Centers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, has implications for an HIV cure in the future, given that eliminating the reservoir in people with HIV has been a major focus of researchers.
“The research will see how the TB infection impacts the HIV reservoir,” Dr. Dupnik said. “In order for an HIV cure to be something feasible on a global scale, we have to understand this dynamic.”