Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding from cultured lymphocyte. © CDC/C. Goldsmith

The immunodeficiency syndrome AIDS, caused by HIV infection, ranks amongst the top ten causes of death worldwide. Antiviral therapies make the disease treatable, enabling longer life expectancy and decreases in new cases. However, even in long-term treatment the virus remains in the body and becomes reactivated when treatment is discontinued. To date, neither curative drugs nor preventive vaccines are available despite intensive studies. Different virus subtypes and virus variability hamper the development of such drugs and therapies.

At the DZIF, scientists concentrate their research on both remission and cure, i.e. reducing viral loads and reservoirs. One research area is early infection, as the likelihood of remission or cure is higher when the virus has been in the body for a short time only. In the projects, DZIF scientists follow gene therapeutic approaches, such as specific excision of the virus genome from human DNA. Other studies investigate viral latency: how can latent viruses hidden in the body be lured out of hiding so that they can be targeted specifically? Broadly neutralising antibodies that reduce viral loads in HIV infection constitute another important area of research.

Central Themes

  • Remission and cure
    The main focus is on strategies to fight HIV latency, excising or destroying integrated virus genomes and using the immune system to improve viral load management.

    o   Treatment strategies after early diagnosis of HIV infection
    o   Activating and destroying latent viruses: “shock and kill”
    o   Excising integrated genomes
    o   Broadly neutralising antibodies for reducing HIV-1

Working Groups

  • Professorship “Translational Cohorts in HIV Research”
    Contact: Jörg-Janne Vehreschild, University of Cologne and University Hospital Cologne
  • International Clinical Trials Unit
    Contact: Michael Hölscher, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
  • Imaging platform for HIV research under appropriate biosafety conditions
    Contact: Vibor Laketa, Heidelberg University Hospital
  • Tenure track professorship for preclinical HIV research
    Contact: Marina Lusic, Heidelberg University Hospital
  • Humanized Mouse Core Cologne, HMCC
    Contact: Florian Klein, University Hospital Cologne

Participating Sites

Gießen - Marburg - Langen
Hamburg-Lübeck-Borstel - Riems



Hans-Georg Kräusslich, Universität & Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg
Gerd Fätkenheuer, Universität & Universitätsklinikum Köln
Michael Hoelscher, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München & Klinikum der Universität München

Project manager
Doris Heidmann