Congratulations to Dr. Guido Ferrari, Professor in Surgery, and Dr. Wilton Williams, Associate Professor in Surgery, for receiving NIH funding for their Co-PI grant, “Center for Innovative HIV/AIDS Vaccine and Cure Research (CIAVCR)”. The UM1 award will build upon the development of the team’s vaccine strategy to induce protective immune responses in non-human primate (NHP) models by exploring innovative messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) constructs for immunogen delivery that can elicit both protective and therapeutic B and T cell responses.
The program has two main research foci. The first, led by Drs. Wilton Williams and Barton Haynes (Professor of Medicine and Immunology) focuses on vaccine-induced neutralizing antibody protection from HIV-1 infection. The second research focus, led by Drs. Guido Ferrari and Michael Betts (Professor of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania), centers on therapeutic vaccine regimen in association with immune modulators for eradication of latent reservoir.
This UM1 presents an exciting opportunity to advance research towards protective and therapeutic vaccine strategies for HIV, which have remained elusive, to leverage the latter to eradicate HIV infection. Building upon recent advances in HIV immunology and vaccine clinical research, the team hypothesizes that a vaccine strategy capable of inducing both polyfunctional neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) and CD8 T cell responses would be the optimal regimen to both prevent and cure HIV-1. The in vivo mechanistic studies will reveal the extent to which NAb and CD8 T cell responses contribute to prevention and eradication of HIV-1 infection. The program will build upon an existing vaccine strategy that can induce protective NAb responses in NHPs by exploring innovative mRNA constructs for immunogen delivery that can elicit both NAb and CD8 T cell responses.
The vaccine regimen will ultimately represent a novel approach for prevention as well as treatment of HIV-1 infection. For treatment, the teams will evaluate the ability of this vaccine regimen to act in concert with the latest generation of latency reversing agents (LRA) that has been recently described as potent and successful in the NHP model in addition to novel anti-HLA-E/ VL9-peptide complex mAbs that can enhance the cytotoxic activity of CD8 T and Natural Killer cells, as well as antibody dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) mediated by the NK cells.
The team is comprised of dedicated investigators with broad expertise from multiple institutions: Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Harvard University, Oxford University and BIOQUAL Inc.