Leaders of the AIDS Research Institute,
A brief note looking back on 2019 and ahead to 2020!
It’s been another notable year. ARI continues to be managed with expert financial leadership from Georgina Lopez and her great group, and with HR management led by Usma Khan. I’ve maintained my role as ARI Director, PI of the amfAR HIV Cure Research Institute, remained engaged as the head of the RAP executive committee, and took on more Academic Senate responsibilities as chair of one of the main committees, Academic Planning and Budget.
Major staff transitions this year found Becky Cantor and Amy Lockwood both leaving the University, after making huge contributions to our cause. As has always been my good fortune, other expert and dedicated staff leaders stepped up and we didn’t miss more than half a beat! The senior ARI manager is now Alisa Jenny, an experienced leader who, among other things, spearheaded the recrafting of the strategic plan for the School of Public Health at the University of Washington where she worked before being recruited to UCSF. Also helping in the ARI is Lauren Sterling, the CFAR Managing Director.
2019 for Larkin, now our amazing ARI Communications Director, has been anything but relaxed! While continuing to provide expert communications support to all of our productive group of investigators, Larkin has taken on a massive effort in organizing MANY aspects of planning for AIDS 2020, the 23rd International AIDS Conference returning to the Bay Area for the first time since 1990. Scheduled only weeks before the Democratic National Convention amidst more than a bit of drama regarding our current political leaders, UCSF is well-positioned for what will be an incredible opportunity to receive the attention of the international audience, whether scientific or political. Monica Gandhi is the local conference co-chair, and Judy Auerbach, Larkin Callaghan, and Hyman Scott sit on the Conference Coordinating Committee, along with many others from UCSF including Marguerita Lightfoot, participating heavily in local efforts. The University is planning both its headline level and conference content contributions, from scientific and community sessions, to seminars and affiliated events, and our roles will be highly visible throughout the Bay Area. Larkin is a great contact for any interested in participating. Diane Havlir, the co-chair of the 2012 International AIDS Conference, also has an inside perspective on the importance of the conference and her teams will use the occasion to highlight the many ways San Francisco continues to be an international model as we aim to end the epidemic. I encourage you to explore more of the conference content and the local planning efforts.
ARI continues to provide the administrative home for our Cure Research Institute, now entering our fifth year of amfAR funding. Our efforts are led by Maya Smith who works closely with Georgina’s finance team and the analysts in the participating investigator groups led by Steve Deeks, Peter Hunt and, at Vitalant (formerly BSRI), Satish Pillai. 2020 promises to be a hugely exciting year for the Institute as Steve and his colleagues launch the most complex cure clinical trial, employing a variety of agents and strategies from an impressive international collaborative group of industry, academic and NIH experts. We can expect to hear much more soon as the trial begins shortly after the New Year.
ARI continues to provide crucial support for our remarkable group of trainees and early career stage HIV investigators. Among other initiatives, ARI provides direct salary support for fellows, enabling them to obtain research mentorship in the ZSFGH AIDS Clinic, strategic research support for ongoing projects (with a call for 2020 awards launching in January), RAP grants for pilot projects in HIV cure research, support for recruitment of URM fellow and faculty applicants, and in conjunction with CFAR ARI supports “boost” awards of modest size to top off ongoing research projects hitting unforeseen obstacles. Most recently, ARI has agreed to fund HIV-focused proposals for Population Health and Health Equity Scholars managed by Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, the Vice Dean for Population Health and Health Equity. Finally, ARI also continues to recognize our leaders in education and mentorship with the Liegler Award for Teaching and Mentorship – 2020 solicitations will be announced early in the new year.
For me personally, as I start to grasp the “senior” phase of my UCSF career, 2019 meant actually retiring (briefly!) from the university in July and passing on CFAR to new leadership (Dr. Monica Gandhi was named the CFAR leader effective July 1, 2019) after 31 years and then being rehired part time as a “recall” position in August to Epidemiology and Biostatistics. I’m not a lot less busy than before!
Finally, I encourage you to stay up to date on the media coverage our research and clinical experts have received in the last year for their work, from the NY Times to NPR to BBC, and if you’re active on social media, to follow our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram channels for real time event updates.
It’s an honor for me to continue to help lead the UCSF AIDS Research Institute. There is little question that our HIV research community remains at the leading edge of all institutions world-wide. ARI is committed to using our resources to maintain that enviable position. We thank the Dean and the University for their continued support and will look for new opportunities to serve you.
Best wishes for the New Year; and see you all at AIDS 2020!
Paul Volberding, MD