A major advocate of healthcare research, Ryan Kavanaugh supports a number of organizations tackling today’s most difficult diseases, including HIV/AIDS. One of the groups Ryan Kavanaugh contributes to is The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), which helps drive a number of cutting-edge research efforts to eradicate HIV/AIDS.
Over the years, amfAR has played an important role in expanding our understanding of HIV and its effects on the body. The organization has underwritten some of the most groundbreaking studies of the past decades and remains committed to identifying the researchers most capable of addressing the gaps in our current knowledge of the disease.
Despite amfAR’s willingness to fund studies without the necessary proof of concept demanded by larger funders, the organization maintains the lowest cost for the greatest number of research citations generated. The organization is ranked fifth among the world’s HIV/AIDS research funders, which includes big pharma companies and the American government. On average, amfAR-supported research has secured between $8 and $11 in subsequent funding for every dollar invested by the organization, which speaks to its ability to pinpoint the most promising and pioneering proposals. Over the years, the organization has funded incredible advances in many different aspects of research, including the following:
One of amfAR’s most important accomplishments is the establishment of the Community-Based Clinical Trials Network, which directly involves the HIV-positive community in clinical research efforts. This network has significantly expedited the approval of several life-extending drugs, such as aerosolized pentamidine and rifabutin. In addition, the network played a key role in the FDA’s approval of erythropoietin for the treatment of anemia caused by AZT. Studies born from the community have also helped identify more effective drug combinations.
In addition, amfAR researchers created a new kind of randomized controlled study to look at treatments for hepatitis C in individuals infected with HIV. This study found a method to eliminate hepatitis C that was more effective than the former standard of care.
amfAR funded the creation of a novel HIV/AIDS Observational Database in Asia as part of its TREAT Asia initiative. This tool helped monitor access to care and the effectiveness of available treatments to tailor research to the specific needs of regional populations. In the Unites States, the organization created an Observational Database that followed 17,000 individuals as they received treatment to learn more about outcomes.
The organization was also behind the very first research projects showing that HIV transmission could occur from females to males and that the presence of other sexually transmitted infections makes transmission of the disease more likely.
amfAR has directly contributed to the development of a number of HIV treatments, including the use of protease inhibitors and antiretroviral drugs. These advances have helped block transmission of HIV from mother to infant and resulted in commonly used clinical treatments like Fuzeon. The organization has also helped improve the diagnosis and monitoring of HIV through the development of a technique the measures the amount of viral RNA in a sample of blood. Another key achievement is proof that DNA vaccines can slow the disease’s progression. Over the years, amfAR has contributed to a number of new vaccine concepts for treating HIV.
A team that received funding from amfAR was the first to create a three-dimensional image of the virus as it makes first contact with a cell, which helped reveal the infection mechanism and point to new avenues of treatment and vaccination. Structural analysis has also led to the creation of CCR5 blockers as microbicides and antiretroviral drugs.
Much of the policy research supported by amfAR focuses on ethical issues that underlie the balance between public health and individual privacy and civil liberties. Contact tracing and case reports have raised a number of difficult questions, especially with past misuse of HIV antibody testing. The resulting publications have been widely read and accepted as guiding texts for navigating these difficult ethical waters. amfAR has also funded efforts to investigate discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, the relationship between HIV/AIDS treatment and substance abuse prevention, and efforts to finance care for people with the disease. These studies have given policymakers the information they need to create appropriate laws that address the real needs of individuals with HIV/AIDS and those people who are at risk of contracting the disease.
Social and Behavioral Advances
amfAR was a leader in funding a study of syringe exchange programs in various cities around the country and their effect on HIV transmission. This research demonstrated that the presence of such program reduces transmission by at least 50 percent without increasing the rates of drug abuse among people who use injection drugs. The organization continues to fund an annual national survey of these programs that appears in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Another pilot project funded by amfAR investigated the possibility of using physician prescriptions for the provision of sterile syringes.
In addition, amfAR has fueled investigations of the intersection of culture and prevention education in the United States, Argentina, and Nepal.