UNC’s HIV Cure Center was co-founded in 2015 by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and GlaxoSmithKline. In 2018, the partnership was transitioned to ViiV Healthcare. The center’s core mission? Leverage and align resources from the private sector and academia to accelerate HIV research and find a cure. 

UNC’s HIV Cure Center

The center serves as a point of collaboration for HIV researchers from UNC-CH and a variety of collaborating institutions. On any given day, you’ll find about 50 in-house scientists and external collaborators all working together. At the moment, the team is working intently on latency reversal and clearance of HIV. In short, this research looks at different ways to seek out silent and undetectable reservoirs and clear them from the body. 

We caught up with Erin Stuelke, Applications Technician, to learn about the HIV Cure Center’s day to day operations and how they make the collaborative approach work. 

The Cure center works with about ten external labs and organizations. Leveraging the work of others and collaborating in real time supports the center’s mission. However, a collaborative approach comes with its own nuances and questions. How will labs coordinate data exchange? How will the data be kept secure in transit? How will teams stay on the same page when they don’t see each other every day? Additionally, the Cure Center collaborates with both academia AND private industry. Here, data from many different institutions and contributors converge in one place. Keeping it all organized is crucial for success. 

This is where Erin comes in. She’s in charge of keeping everyone in the Cure Center organized and moving forward with tools that satisfy the center’s unique research data management needs. Erin used to do bench work, so she knows that any tools/strategies handed to researchers have to be applicable at the bench in order to provide any value.  

Erin was first introduced to LabArchives when she attended a demo for UNC’s School of Pharmacy. She’s tech oriented and was eager to find a data management solution that didn’t require so much paper. As she started looking for solutions, she was conscious of the fact that many of the center’s labs are BSL2+ containment labs meaning that nothing can be removed from them. Tired of writing, photographing and re-writing her data, she turned to Excel spreadsheets. Ultimately Erin found that LabArchives also offered powerful data management capabilities but with easier collaboration. She introduced LabArchives to the center in 2016. 

With LabArchives help Erin has built some of her own widgets and has created things like a standard cover sheet that everyone at the center now uses. She has also written scripts and standardized spreadsheets, data cleaning protocols and more for the center’s members and contributors to use. When new members join the center, Erin takes care of getting them up to speed with LabArchives use and data retention policies. 

All HIV Cure Center data is shared through LabArchives on the secure UNC network. Thanks to the center’s LabArchives usage, all data is/will be accessible to the center’s members today, tomorrow or even years from now. Because so many parties contribute to the center’s work, keeping a comprehensive repository of data is intrinsic to the lab’s success. When a member leaves, the center is never stuck wondering where important data went – no pieces to the HIV Cure Center puzzle ever get lost. 

Much of the work done at the HIV Cure Center may be used in future patents. With patents it’s absolutely imperative that the center has a secure and complete repository of all data.  As Erin said, “If we need to file a patent five years from now, we will be able to quickly find all the data that relates to it.” 

The HIV Cure Center regularly has papers going out for publication. When we chatted with Erin, the team was 24 hours away from their next publication.  This paper focused on the results of a latency reversal agent tested in model systems. Should this paper ever come up for review the team will be able to rest easy knowing that all supporting data is indelibly stored, secure and fully versioned in LabArchives.  

Thanks to Erin for chatting with us and to everyone at the HIV Cure Center for their work. 

More on UNC’s HIV Cure Center…

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