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UC San Diego Professor Wins $2.5 Million For HIV Prevention Project

An associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego won $2.5 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to track how HIV spreads through a population. He focuses his work on San Diego and the border region and looks for hotspots of HIV outbreaks.

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An associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego has won a $2.5 million award to fund an HIV prevention project, the National Institute on Drug Abuse announced today.

Dr. Davey Smith is one of three recipients of the 2012 Avant-Garde Award for HIV/AIDS research, which supports advances in the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS.

Smith's work figures out the very basic structure of an HIV virus and uses that as a marker that he can track through a population. This figuring out of the basic structure is called sequencing.

“So everybody who has an HIV infection basically has a unique virus," Smith said. "So we sequence the virus from people we know who come in to get tested and from that we can get basically a signature of the virus. And if we see that signature in other individuals as we start to test them, then we can come up with a profile of a transmission cluster that might be developing.”

Smith stresses that his research doesn’t target individuals, but instead tracks the virus as it spreads through risk groups. He said it will allow researchers to get very current information about how the virus is spreading.

“The cool part about the project is to actually use the sequence of the virus to tell us about the transmission networks that are occurring in San Diego and to try to get that in as real time as possible,“ he said.

Smith said they can then use this information to target risk groups with prevention measures and medical care.

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