NYC to DC AIDS Ride to Benefit Mason Research

Posted: September 23, 2010 at 1:04 am, Last Updated: September 22, 2010 at 4:45 pm

By Dave Andrews

Yuntao Wu. Creative Services photo

To bike 330 miles, one needs an incredible amount of motivation. The annual New York City to Washington, D.C., AIDS ride provides just that in an effort to fund research and find a vaccine for HIV.

On Thursday, Sept. 23, riders will set off from lower Manhattan on a four-day bike ride that concludes in Washington, D.C. This marks the third consecutive year that all proceeds will directly fund the research of Yuntao Wu, professor in Mason’s College of Science’s Molecular and Microbiology Department.

“The proceeds from the AIDS ride have helped our research tremendously, especially at a time when funding is tight,” Wu says. “Thanks in large part to the funds raised from the AIDS ride, we have identified multiple new inhibitors.”

Wu, who rode in last year’s event, knows that it’s a long and challenging ride, but the cause makes it a little easier to endure. “The first day (of last year’s ride) was very difficult, but I improved a little each day,” Wu says.

This year’s Mason representative is one of Wu’s student researchers, Beatrix Meltzer. Wu and 10 other Mason team members will assist at hospitality tents along the ride route, providing riders with food, drinks and medical care, if needed.

Wu has become well known throughout the research community for having made many notable discoveries in the field of AIDS research. His work has been published in many prestigious journals such as Science, Journal of Virology, Virology, Retrovirology and Current HIV Research.

Wu’s reputation grew rapidly throughout the AIDS community, and caught the eye of Marty Rosen, founder of the NYC DC AIDS Research Ride. It was Rosen who decided in 2008 that all of the proceeds would go toward Wu’s research.

Though Wu receives most of his funding from the National Institutes of Health, he says having to constantly secure research funding is an ongoing challenge. That’s why he was thrilled to find out he’d been chosen as the sole beneficiary of funds raised from the NYC DC AIDS Research Ride.

“The work Dr. Wu is doing is very important, and I think it’s going to change the direction of AIDS research,” Rosen says. “In fact, it’s already been a major factor internationally. We are very proud to be able to support a part of his research.”

Approximately 50 riders take part every year, each of whom raises a minimum of $3,000 in sponsorship money. Last year’s riders raised more than $100,000. This year, proceeds have already exceeded those numbers.

The ultimate goal for Wu and his research team is to receive FDA approval for their HIV vaccines. Wu realizes that attaining that goal will be difficult, but he is optimistic about the direction of their research.

“We’ve completed our lab experiments with positive results, and with the data we collected, we can now move on to more intensive trials,” Wu says. “We are still in the early stages, but we hope it will eventually lead to clinical trial.”

Wu says that getting to that point may take many more years, but receiving help from the NYC DC AIDS Research Ride gives him hope.

“The ride is a chance to see the human impact of our research,” Wu says. “Many of the riders themselves are HIV-positive, and they are counting on us to find a cure.

“I always tell my students not to look at their research as just lab work and test tubes, but as something that could one day have a significant impact on real people.”

Donations are still being accepted. For more information, go to the NYC DC AIDS Ride website.

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