URBAN ARCH and Providence/Boston Center for AIDS Research: Perfect Partners

In this issue of the URBAN ARCH newsletter we will describe our development of a research and training partnership with the Providence/Boston Center for AIDS Research.

The Providence/Boston Center for AIDS Research (P/B CFAR) was established in 1998 at Lifespan/Brown University with the goal of generating translational research to reduce the burden of HIV infection worldwide.  In 2015, Boston University/Boston Medical Center joined the P/B CFAR which provided the impetus for URBAN ARCH to connect with the CFAR. For the latest grant renewal application, the P/B CFAR leadership recognized that the breadth of expertise of substance use/HIV research at Brown and BU/BMC (including URBAN ARCH and Brown’s ARCH) warranted placing substance use research services within its own distinct core. Dr. Jeffrey Samet of BU/BUMC and Dr. Christopher Kahler from Brown University were invited to serve as Co-Directors of the Substance Use Research Core (SURC) due to their considerable experience, mentoring, and grant funding in this domain. Many of the investigators from URBAN ARCH and Brown’s ARCH are SURC faculty, which further cements the partnership between the two groups. Today, the SURC supports the development of basic, clinical, and translational research that addresses the impact of substance use on the HIV epidemic. Joining forces with the P/B CFAR SURC allows URBAN ARCH to connect HIV/alcohol researchers to additional research training, funding, and services.


A number of URBAN ARCH researchers have been supported through CFAR for their work in HIV/substance use:

Sabrina Assoumou, MD received a CFAR Developmental Grant to work on a HIV/HCV testing pilot study. Dr. Assoumou is an Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Medicine and an URBAN ARCH collaborator. Under the mentorship of Dr. Samet, she recently received a NIDA K23 career development award “Engaging Young People Who Inject Drugs Into HCV And HIV Care.”

Angela Robertson Bazzi, PhD received a CFAR Developmental Grant for a research project titled “Optimizing Bio-behavioral HIV Prevention Approaches for People Who Inject Drugs.” This collaborative project aimed to adapt and refine a theory-based intervention to optimize PrEP uptake and adherence for people who inject drugs (PWID) in Boston, MA and Providence, RI. Dr. Bazzi is an Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Public Health and an URBAN ARCH collaborator.  She is mentored by Drs. Saitz and Samet on her NIDA K01 award “Implementing Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV Prevention among People Who Inject Drugs.”

Karsten Lunze, DrPH received funding for a CFAR Developmental Project, “Double Stigma as Barrier to Integrated HIV Treatment among HIV-Infected PWID in Ukraine.” In 2016, he also presented at the CFAR Joint Symposium on HIV Research in Women: “Sexual violence from police and HIV risks among HIV-positive women who inject drugs in St. Petersburg, Russia.” Dr. Lunze is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and an URBAN ARCH junior investigator. He is currently funded by a NIDA K99 “Stigma, Risk Behaviors and Health Care among HIV-Infected Russian People Who Inject Drugs

Julia Purks, BS joined the team as a CFAR Summer Intern in 2016 when she was biology undergraduate student at Boston College. Julia worked under the mentorship of Dr. Samet and participated in numerous activities, including assisting with Russia ARCH.

Kaku So-Armah, PhD received funding for a CFAR Developmental Project, which will leverage the Russia St PETER resources and support whole genome sequencing of fecal microbiomes and intestinal fatty acid binding protein (IFABP) to measure intestinal permeability. Dr. So-Armah is a Research Assistant Professor at BUSM and a URBAN ARCH junior investigator. He has a K01 “Novel Mechanisms Driving Excess Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Risk in the Context of HIV: The Role of Liver Injury

l-r: Christine Capozzi, Jeffrey Samet, and Carly Bridden at the 2018 CFAR Research Day


Jeffrey Samet and Susan Cu-Uvin at the 2018 CFAR Research Day

The SURC has co-hosted networking breakfasts in conjunction with the 2017 and 2018 URBAN ARCH annual meetings. Students, post-docs, and junior faculty interested in the fields of HIV and/or substance use were invited to attend these events. The purpose of these events was to bring together URBAN ARCH and CFAR investigators to explore opportunities for research projects. Trainees stated that they enjoyed the hands-on guidance from mentors, the opportunity to receive critiques to their specific aims pages, and guidance on future career paths.

The P/B CFAR was recently refunded for 5 more years. We look forward to the developing more junior investigators and increasing the attention that substance use receives in HIV research.