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Le Zhang, PhD Wins Avenir Award for Research on Substance Use Disorders and HIV/AIDS

May 24, 2022

Assistant Professor Le Zhang, PhD was recently awarded a DP2 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), entitled “Immune Network Dysregulation of the Central Nervous System with HIV Persistence and Opioid Abuse.” The grant, which amounts to more than $2.5 million, began on May 15, 2022 and lasts for four years.

Dr. Zhang’s grant is part of the NIDA’s Avenir Awards program, which recognizes early-career investigators whose research significantly furthers the understanding of addiction science. Her specific award honors her outstanding research on opioid use disorder, HIV/AIDS, and related neuroinflammation.

“HIV persists within the central nervous system despite successful suppression of viral replication with antiretroviral therapy, leading to incomplete viral eradication, as well at HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders that are further exaggerated by opioid use, yet the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms remain a mystery,” said Dr. Zhang.

“We will bring innovative, single-cell transcriptomics technologies to define a dysregulated immune network in the central nervous system of individuals with HIV infection with and without opioid exposure at the single-cell level.”

Dr. Zhang’s goal is not only to amplify the understanding of the connection between neurologic disorders and persistent HIV infection, but also to contribute towards future treatments for patients living with HIV and opioid use disorder.

For more information on Dr. Zhang's research, visit her lab website.

Submitted by Allison Greco on May 24, 2022