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Dr. Gretchen Neigh: Creative and Novel Ideas in HIV Research (CNIHR) Programme Award Winner

Posted 21 juillet 2014, 11:13 , by Guest

By Dr Gretchen Neigh, Assistant Professor, Emory University

The Creative and Novel Ideas in HIV Research (CNIHR) Programme is presented by the International AIDS Society (IAS) in collaboration with the Centers for AIDS Research Program (CFAR) and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). The programme aims to encourage innovation in the field of HIV research by providing one to two years of funding to early-stage scientists who do not have prior work experience with HIV. The CNIHR Programme allows the grantees the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research on HIV and AIDS.

In conjunction with the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), CNIHR grants totaling US$5 million were awarded to twelve scientists, including Dr Gretchen Neigh for her proposed work, “Effects of adolescent stress and HIV on the stress response and neuroinflammation.” As anticipation grows for the AIDS 2014 conference in Melbourne, Australia, this summer, the IAS has reached out to Dr Neigh to hear her opinions on how the award has shaped her career thus far.

“The CNIHR award provided me with an avenue by which to apply my expertise in behavioral neuroendocrinology and psychoneuroimmunology to HIV,” reflected Dr Neigh. “I had tried to begin work in the area of HIV prior to the CNIHR award but lacked much of the basic fundamental knowledge about HIV and did not have any professional connections within the field.  The CNIHR award provided opportunities to improve my understanding of HIV so that I could better apply my skill set to address chronic issues faced by HIV-infected individuals.  Being a CNIHR awardee also provided access to experts in the field that could assist me in applying my skills to the areas of most need within the HIV field.  I have initiated several additional projects within the field of HIV since receiving the CNIHR award and am currently preparing an R01 application based on preliminary data generated by work funded by my CNIHR award.”

Beyond the monetary grant provided by the CNIHR Programme, recipients of the award have the opportunity to attend the major IAS-convened conference in the year they are awarded as well as in subsequent years to present their progress. Dr Neigh described her attendance at AIDS 2012 and IAS 2013 as “instrumental in my forward movement in the HIV field.” At the conferences, the IAS and its partners organize several activities specifically for grantees to enrich their conference experience and provide additional opportunities for professional networking and further learning within the field of HIV. In discussing the value of these activities, Dr Neigh stated, “I made many professional contacts that otherwise would have been unlikely to occur. The ‘crash course’ on HIV research [at AIDS 2012] was extremely helpful. The pre-conference CNIHR meetings were also excellent in providing feedback on my research plan and progress and in helping me to have one-on-one interaction with leaders in the field. The round table lunches were excellent opportunities to network.  The interactions with CFAR members from other universities were also excellent and led to me taking a NeuroAIDS course on-line that I otherwise would not have known about.”

In awarding CNIHR grants, the IAS strives to introduce promising scientists to the field of HIV who have an outside perspective and who will therefore bring in innovative approaches to tackling some of the greatest challenges that remain. After the conclusion of the grant period, researchers are not obligated to remain in the field of HIV, though the majority of grantees discover a great interest here and decide to further their work in this realm. Dr Neigh is one such grantee, and she has communicated her desire to pursue additional HIV research: “I very much plan to continue work in the field of HIV research after completion of my CNIHR award.  This will of course be contingent on being able to acquire additional funding in this area, but I am actively pursuing multiple grant opportunities.  I am currently working on several projects which address the bidirectional relationship between stress and HIV pathogenesis.  The project that I am currently preparing for an R01 application addresses the role of chronic stress prior to SIV infection in the pathogenesis of SIV and the treatment response.  In addition, augmentative therapy is proposed that is consistent with existing knowledge about the effects of chronic stress on brain and behavior.”