Message from the Director

Celia SchifferMore than 30 years of basic research, drug development, and clinical research has led to decreases in the number of AIDS cases, and, in the developed world, HIV-1 infection became an outpatient disease. However, despite the enormous impact of basic science and anti-HIV-1 drug development, the AIDS pandemic persists. There remains need for a vaccine, for a cure, and for new drugs that block ongoing virus replication and inflammation. Thus we continue to need the entire scope of the HIV research enterprise. 

The UMass CFAR, since its inception in 1998 and part of the NIH network of Centers for AIDS Research, has played a critical role in supporting this research community through key infrastructure in the forms of scientific cores, pilot grants, interactive working groups and seminars featuring external and internal speakers. Since 2011, building on our strengths in HIV research, the new focus of the UMass CFAR is to leverage our collective understanding of the molecular mechanism of how HIV replicates in the face of host restriction, immunity and co-infection toward better patient therapy, an effective HIV-1 vaccine and a cure for AIDS

UMass Medical School has a unique cohesive culture that allows innovative science to incubate and thrive. This culture permits our community to rapidly realize scientific goals, forming collaborations and making breakthroughs that otherwise would not occur. We are very excited to welcome new faculty who have joined our Center in 2011 – 2012. Due to the strong commitment of the UMMS administration to HIV/AIDS research, CFAR members now represent a significant fraction of the entire research enterprise at UMMS. 

HIV infection and the progression towards AIDS are highly interdependent processes between the virus and the infected host/patient, processes that are greatly influenced by concomitant opportunistic infections. To facilitate the likelihood that HIV infection will one day be curable and vaccine-preventable, our CFAR Working Groups address these scientific research priorities: 

• Enhance and Grow Research in HIV Host Defense 
• Enhance and Grow Research in Key Mechanisms of HIV Replication 
• Grow Our Clinical HIV Research 

As you peruse this website, you will find profiles of our member scientists, our core services and our working groups. Recent publications and news items, a calendar of events, links to member research and other websites, and other features will reflect the UMass CFAR progress toward these important goals. 

CFAR Director's Biography

Celia A. Schiffer is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School. She became Director of the UMMS CFAR in December 2010.  Dr. Schiffer has a BA in physics from the University of Chicago, Ph.D. in biophysics from University of California, San Francisco, with postdoctoral training at the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland and Genentech, Inc.  Using a combination of experimental and computational biophysical techniques to obtain key biological insights, her laboratory studies the molecular basis for drug resistance in HIV, Hepatitis C and Influenza and the anti-HIV host restriction factors APOBEC3's. Through her research, she has developed a new paradigm for avoiding drug resistance that likely translates to other diseases. This new paradigm is the basis for the design of novel picomolar HIV-1 protease inhibitors that are more potent in viral cultures of wild-type and resistant viruses than the leading HIV-1 protease inhibitor Darunavir. These novel inhibitors strongly support the premise that by putting drug resistance first in  development of drug design strategies, inhibitors can be developed that are more robust against drug resistance. Through this research she conceptualized an interdisciplinary approach to avoid drug resistance and co-founded the Institute for Drug Resistance, with the hope of changing how the community approaches therapy to all quickly-evolving diseases, including HIV.