A unique feature of the CNICS consortium are biological specimens that have been obtained (by written informed consent) and stored from a variety of well-characterized participants in the CNICS population. These specimens are made available to any qualified investigator with a feasible and relevant research question. The ability to perform novel biological measurements on specimens collected from patients of known and diverse clinical phenotypes is at the heart of translational research.
The CNICS biological specimen repository is useful to address several different types of research questions. The first type of question – and one in which CNICS is distinctive in its ability to support – involves the evaluation of biological specimens that precede the occurrence of some relevant clinical event (e.g., cardiovascular disease or cancer). By combining a large study population with a variety of well-adjudicated clinical outcomes, CNICS is one of very few research platforms that is able to study temporal precedence of various biologic exposures to clinical outcomes. A second type of question addressees the prevalence of a variety of biologic analytes in a contemporary population of HIV-infected patients. The geographic and demographic diversity of CNICS is unrivaled in the U.S. as a platform for such descriptive work. A third genre of questions attempts to dissect the biology of extreme HIV-related phenotypes such as patients who are able to spontaneously suppress viral replication (so-called “elite controllers”) or those who have not progressed clinically despite having not been treated (“long-term non-progressors”). These are just a few examples of general research domains, and many other possibilities exist.
CNICS collects plasma (e.g., for biomarkers), viably frozen PBMCs (e.g., for functional immunologic assays), and snap frozen PBMCs (for genetic analyses). Saliva specimens are also available. Each of the CNICS sites has experience with sample preparation and quality assurance through the ACTG / AVEU / HVTN networks.
Overall, from March 25, 1987 to 2019, CNICS has collected and stored 1,043,374 aliquots of biological specimens from 18,188 unique HIV-infected patients at 139,148 timepoints.
Specimens requests will be reviewed for feasibility and relevance upon submission of a specimen webform request. CNICS will work with investigators to optimize requests and determine availability. Shipping and handling costs associated with specimen requests are the responsibility of the requesting investigator. Specimens are not stored at a central repository but instead are maintained at each individual CNICS site. Thus, costs associated with specimen shipments from multiple sites may be incurred, depending on the study.
To use specimens only, submit a Specimen Feasibility Request to optimize a “specimen only” request and determine availability.