Director's Update: February 2022 ❤

February 14, 2022
CFAR Director's Update


Dr. Gandhi in front of SFGH with the CFAR logo and Director's Update text


Dear CFAR Community: 

Today, I want to wish the UCSF-Bay Area Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) a very happy Valentine’s Day. This time last year, we had such high hopes for the pandemic as three highly effective vaccines had just been authorized in the United States. However, it has been an eventful year with the COVID-19 pandemic with not only the variants but the more limited uptake of the vaccines than anticipated in the US. With highly effective (and now more available) oral therapeutics, we have a better way to protect the unvaccinated and advances are continuing in the pandemic. There are multiple initiatives for Global Vaccine and Treatment Equity circulating and we encourage signing on to one or more of these initiatives, such as Medical Professionals for Global Vaccine Equity.  

In the HIV world, there has been great advances in HIV medicine—such as the approval of injectable treatments (intramuscular cabotegravir and rilpivirine) and prevention (injectable cabotegravir) this year. There have been setbacks in the HIV response due to COVID-19 with cities around the world showing decreases in virologic suppression or testing with COVID-19 pandemic, including San Francisco. We in the HIV community stand committed to “take back HIV” and rejuvenate testing, prevention and treatment in HIV. For example, Ward 86 worked hard to institute a multi-component strategy to reverse trends in falling virologic suppression rates after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and succeeded with increasing in-person care, housing referrals and increasing our social worker services. 

Finally, the basic science community has done amazing work on the intersection between HIV and COVID-19, both informing new COVID-19 therapeutics and most recently, a new vaccine candidate involving mRNA technology for HIV (with a human trial just launched). UCSF has contributed greatly to the efforts around HIV and HIV/COVID-19 interactions in the past two years and we are proud of the CFAR investigators who have continued to advance these fields. 

CFAR renewal process and outcome:

I took on the Directorship of the CFAR at UCSF in July 2019 working closely with Lauren Sterling (Associate Director) and appointing two co-directors: Mallory Johnson PhD (socio-behavioral science) and Peter Hunt MD (translational/basic science). From July 2019 to October 2019 (before the pandemic so in-person), we met with leaders of the Departments, Divisions, and organizations across the CFAR in order to help determine needed CFAR refinements and expansions to inform renewal planning. In total, we conducted 20 listening sessions with key stakeholders spanning the range of HIV research endeavors. These conversations were structured, and answers recorded systematically as part of a strategic planning process. Many changes were made in direct response to discussions held during these stakeholder conversations, including activities to unify our community, coordinate research collaborations, provide smaller research grants in addition to the larger pilot awards, enhance communication, and bring a new HIV prevention focus to our CFAR. The result was a reconfigured CFAR from UCSF (called the UCSF-Bay Area CFAR) which we submitted to the NIH as a renewal application in July 2021. 

In terms of the new structure of the CFAR, in this renewal, we proposed three scientific cores (Clinical, Basic/Translational, Bio-Behavioral), each with 3 constituent components. Our bedrocks of the Administrative and Developmental Core remained intact.

The new Clinical Core (led by Drs. Deeks and Christopoulos) will support the pre-existing SCOPE cohort; a new initiative to increase the diversity of participants in studies across the CFAR by recruiting from Ward 86, which serves vulnerable and low-income patients with HIV (the Participant Referral Service); and Specimen Processing and Banking (AIDS Specimen Bank). With support from CFAR, (which continues to be its primary stable funding base), SCOPE was initiated in 2001 and has since enrolled over 2200 participants with HIV (PWH) and HIV-noninfected controls. SCOPE has been a rich source of data and publications for local, national, and international investigators since its inception. 

The Basic/Translational Core (led by Dr. Hunt) will have three components: the Immunology and Functional Genomics Sub-Core, the Pharmacology of Cure and Pathogenesis Sub-Core and a new Bio-informatics Sub-Core. The Immunology and Functional Genomics Sub-Core will continue to be a unique and integral component of our translational research infrastructure: To support the breadth of basic science/translational HIV research across the CFAR. The Pharmacology of Cure and Co-Infections core will continue to support new initiatives in basic science. A Bioinformatics Sub-Core will be added to support investigators in computational high-dimensional data processing, analysis, visualization, and management of multi-omic data. 

The Bio-Behavioral Core (led by Mallory Johnson) is new to the CFAR and will provide services identified in our stakeholder conversations that complement, but do not duplicate, functions of CAPS by starting a new PrEP cohort; providing expertise in Substance Use research; and starting a new Biomarkers of Behavior Sub-Core to provide objective measures of adherence and substance use for CFAR investigators.

Each of our Scientific Cores, upon the platform of the Administrative and Developmental Cores, will engage the CFAR membership via a robust array of services, methodological expertise, and assay development and provision when relevant. Our Cores directly support NIH research priorities for HIV, including reducing the incidence of HIV, conducting research towards HIV cure, addressing HIV-associated comorbidities, coinfections, and complications, developing next-generation HIV therapies, and advancing cross-cutting areas of research in the basic sciences, behavioral and social sciences, epidemiology, implementation science, information dissemination, and research training. 

We have two new scientific working groups—Housing and Intersectionality—and our three cross-cutting areas of a) Health Equity and Community Engagement; 2) Training and Career Development; and 3) International Research developed from our strategic planning and will further help support Office of AIDS Research (OAR)-established HIV/AIDS research priorities for the NIH.Finally, Dr. Carina Marquez will serve as the overall Equity lead of the CFAR and Drs. John Sauceda and Jonathan Fuchs will continue co-directing the mentorship program. 

We are very excited to report that the UCSF-Bay Area CFAR Renewal application in 2021

received a great overall impact score of “10” from the NIH so we will be renewed. We are looking forward to the next five years with you!

I want to thank everyone who helped write the CFAR application, including Lauren, Mallory, Peter, with contributions from all the Core and Sub-Core Directors, the IAB, our mentoring and equity leaders, and all the junior investigators whom I emailed and said please please comb through this- any mistakes? I am so grateful and honored to be serving in this role at the CFAR and very Happy Valentine’s Day to you all (since the CFAR is pretty much my Valentine but that is okay; that is GOOD).

Thanks, Monica


CFAR Administration Update


Headshot of Rado Lee

I’d like to introduce Rado Lee (she/her), who started as the new CFAR/ARI/CHI Finance Manager in October 2021. Rado oversees all of CFAR's financial portfolio, including the CFAR awards programs. She comes to us with over a decade of experience in research administration and program management at various research institutions including UCSF, UCLA, and the University of Washington. She loves creative problem solving and process improvement.

Rado is originally from South Korea. She has a bachelor's degree in English from UC Berkeley. In her spare time, she likes to go on rigorous hikes, learn to draw better, and play with her 2yo cat named Spock.


Call for CFAR IAB Member-At-Large: Applications Due 4/5

We are now soliciting accepting applications for our open Member-at-Large position of the UCSF CFAR Internal Advisory Board.

Learn More and Apply Here…$

CFAR and CAPS both received funding for DEI training initiatives

CFAR Scholars Program The CFAR Scholars Program is an internship program for undergrad/grad students from SFSU to gain mentored research opportunities at UCSF through our CFAR. We encourage any San Francisco State University undergraduate or graduate students interested in HIV research to apply. Applications due 3/1.

CAPS Ujima Program The Ujima Program provides multidisciplinary research mentoring and funding to early-stage investigators, particularly those at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), who focus their programs of research on high priority areas that address HIV prevention, care, and treatment in Black/African American communities. Applications due 3/1


Upcoming CFAR Seminars

We’ve continued our CFAR seminar series with exceptional talks from Drs. Barney Graham, Larry Corey, Paul Sax, Katharine Bar, and Mina Hosseinipour this year. If you missed any of their sessions, you can check them out on our YouTube channel. The remainder of our seminars for this year will include Dr. Connie Celum from UW discussing PrEP and women with a Spotlight on the School of Nursing following the talk (March 2), Dr. Carlos Del Rio from Emory University will join us on April 6 to discuss his work on HIV and COVID-19 during both pandemics. His talk will be followed by the presentation of our CFAR Excellence Awards with talks by our awardees (don't forget to nominate Excellence Awardees by 2/25),  Dr. Ann Ginsberg from the Gates Foundation will speak next on TB and vaccines with a spotlight on the Division of Experimental Medicine following her seminar (May 4), jointly sponsored by the UCSF Center for TB. And, finally, Dr. José Bauermeister from UPenn will join us for the final seminar of the year to discuss his work on decreasing sexuality-related disparities in young sexual and gender minority groups (June 1). Email if you’re not receiving the calendar invites!


Welcome New Faculty


Headshot of Christopher Berger

Dr. Christopher Berger, MD, MSIMT is an assistant professor in the UCSF Division of Pulmonary Critical Care Medicine, clinically based at San Francisco General Hospital. His research focuses on improving tuberculosis screening, diagnosis, and treatment programs globally through the use of implementation science and human-centered design principles. He works with Dr. Adithya Cattamanchi on projects in the Philippines to improve the diagnostic and clinical tools used in MDR and XDR TB and in Uganda designing improved versions of the globally utilized “Directly Observed Therapy” toolkit.



Headshot of Matt Durstenfeld

Dr. Matt Durstenfeld, MD is an Assistant Professor in the UCSF Division of Cardiology, clinically based at San Francisco General Hospital. As a cardiologist, he studies how HIV/AIDS increases cardiovascular risk and what can be done to mitigate that extra risk. He is especially interested in studying how to improve cardiovascular primary and secondary prevention among vulnerable populations with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco as well as in low- and middle- income countries.




Headshot of Andrew D. Kerkhoff,

Dr. Andrew D. Kerkhoff, MD, PhD, MSc, is an infectious disease physician, HIV primary care provider, and Assistant Professor in the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine, at San Francisco General Hospital at the University of California, San Francisco. He has more than a decade of experience undertaking research based in sub-Saharan Africa that evaluates novel tools and strategies to improve the diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB), with a focus on low-cost, point-of-care assays. His current research seeks to apply implementation science methods, to improve individual- and population-level outcomes through the development and evaluation of equity-focused, efficient, effective and sustainable TB, HIV, and COVID-19 care engagement and retention strategies in the United States and Zambia. 



Headshot of Hannah Leslie

Dr. Hannah Leslie, PhD, MPH is an Assistant Professor in the UCSF Division of Prevention Sciences, based in Mission Bay. She is an epidemiologist and health systems researcher; her research has addressed the measurement of health system quality and HIV care quality at national and local levels. She is interested in working towards interventions to strengthen health services to reduce inequities in health outcomes, primarily conducting research with collaborators in South Africa as well as Latin America, including Mexico and Peru.




Headshot of Michael Peluso

Dr. Michael Peluso, MD, MPhil, MHS, is an an infectious disease clinical-translational physician-scientist and Assistant Professor in the UCSF Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital. He is involved with clinical and laboratory research aimed at understanding the HIV reservoir and implementing clinical trials to disrupt the reservoir with the aim of inducing antiretroviral therapy-free HIV remission. In addition, he manages a large observational study of people who previously had SARS-CoV-2 infection with the goal of understanding the long-term biological and immunological consequences of COVID-19.



Headshot of Sara Suliman

Dr. Sara Suliman, PhD, MPH is an immunologist by training with a background in discovering and validating biomarkers to predict risk of tuberculosis (TB), as well as understanding host T cell responses and genetic factors associated with risk of TB disease. She was an instructor at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, where she led the Diagnostic Accelerator lab to evaluate emerging COVID-19 diagnostics as part of the Mass General and Brigham Center for COVID Innovation. She is now an assistant professor at the division of experimental medicine at UCSF based at the San Francisco General Hospital, studying host mechanisms of TB progression.



Headshot of Gustavo Velasquez

Dr. Gustavo Velasquez, MD, MPH is an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital at the University of California, San Francisco. He is an infectious disease physician and clinical researcher whose main research interest is the development of novel treatment regimens for drug-susceptible and drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB), with special interests in the safety and tolerability of TB treatment and management of TB/HIV co-infection. He works with the endTB consortium (, serving as a co-investigator on two multi-country Phase 3 randomized controlled clinical trials evaluating novel shortened oral regimens for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), and is supported by a NIAID K08 award which leverages his role in the trials above to examine the safety, tolerability, and PK/PD of new and repurposed drugs for MDR-TB treatment. 



Headshot of Sophia Zamudio-Haas

Dr. Sophia Zamudio-Haas, DrPH, MSc, is an Assistant Professor in the UCSF Division of Prevention Sciences, based in Mission Bay. Her research interests lie in increasing access and uptake of HIV prevention and treatment services for most affected populations in the US and globally, including gender and sexual minorities, people who inject drugs, and young women and girls. Engaging participatory and community-led methods, her work focuses on generating innovations and adapting care programs to meet the needs of marginalized populations, with the goal of ending HIV health disparities.


Congratulations to Recent CFAR and NIH K and First-time R01 Awardees!

CFAR Awardees

Mentored Scientist Award to Bharath Sreekumar, Gladstone Institutes: Characterization and assessment of telomerase transduced primary CD4+ T-cells as a model to study HIV latency

Mentored Scientist Award to Miranda Hill, UCSF CAPS/DPS: A examination of the intersection between mobility and HIV outcomes among Black cisgender and transgender women in Atlanta

Mentored Scientist Award to Hannah Leslie, UCSF CAPS/DPS: Identifying clinic factors that shape population health outcomes in times of crisis

Mentored Scientist Award to Sarah Gutin, UCSF CAPS/DPS: Development of novel scales to measure HIV-specific social support for safer conception and male involvement in safer conception approaches for the prevention of HIV

International Mentored Scientist Award to Phoebe Mbabazi, Infectious Diseases Institute: Prevalence, clinical and immunological predictors of frailty among older adults with HIV in Kampala

International Mentored Scientist Award to Khamisi Musanje, Makerere University: Adaptation of a Mindfulness based intervention to support Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy among adolescents in Uganda


NIH K and First-time R01 Awardees

Christopher Berger, UCSF Pulmonary, K23 HL156784: Digital adherence technologies to facilitate completion of short-course tuberculosis preventive therapy among people living with HIV

Alison Comfort, UCSF Bixby/OB/GYN, K01 HD105521: Understanding individual- and social network-level factors affecting infant HIV testing to design social network interventions to increase testing of HIV-exposed infants

Amelia Deitchman, UCSF Clinical Pharmacy, K23 AI162249: Clinical Pharmacology Approaches towards Accelerating HIV Cure Initiatives

Andrew Kerkhoff, UCSF HIVIDGM, K23 AI157914: Feasibility and acceptability of a peer-led strategy to improve community tuberculosis case finding among non-household contacts in Zambia

Anthony Muiru, UCSF Nephrology, K23 DK119562: SEARCH-CKD: The nature of chronic kidney disease and elevated blood pressure in sub-Saharan Africa.

Michael Peluso, UCSF HIVIDGM, K23 AI157875: Characterizing the virologic and immunologic signatures of HIV exceptional control

Sean Arayasirikul, UCSF Epidemiology and Biostatistics, DP2 AI164315: One Ballroom

Jenny Liu, UCSF SON Institute for Health & Aging, R01 MH124516: AmbassADDOrs for Health: Supporting young women's health through girl-friendly drug vendors

Rachel Rutishauser, UCSF DEM, R01 AI170239: Targeting HIV-specific T cell differentiation programs to enhance post-treatment control of HIV