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Joint Venture Between CHAVI and HVTN Creates Early Career Investigators Awards Program

To promote collaboration between researchers conducting preclinical vaccine studies in monkeys (non-human primates) and clinicians conducting HIV vaccine trials in humans, the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) jointly initiated an early career investigator (ECI) scholar program. The goal of this program is to support young investigators committed to:

  • Advancing our understanding of non-human primate HIV vaccine models for use in predicting immune responses and efficacy for vaccine candidates
  • Developing novel models for pre-clinical evaluation of vaccines candidates
  • Defining what host immune responses are required to prevent HIV-1 transmission or protect against disease progression after virus infection.

The program is designed to support young investigators conducting research on preventive HIV vaccines, and to pair them with senior mentors such as a clinical researcher or a non-human primate scientist. The five investigators who are currently receiving funds through this new CHAVI-HVTN ECI program are:

1. David Kaufman, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center of Harvard University
Strategies to Expand the Breadth of Vaccine-elicited CD8+ T-Lymphocyte Responses

This project will determine if prime-boost regimens of Env and Gag antigens derived from a wide array of clades can elicit CD8 T cell responses that target a broad range of highly conserved epitopes in Env and Gag. The responses to the same vaccine regimen will be compared in nonhuman primates and humans.

2. Shelby O'Connor, University of Wisconsin
Defining the Need for Epitope-Specific CD8 T Cells in a Successful HIV Vaccine

This project will evaluate if protection afforded by the live attenuated SIV vaccine stems from vaccine-generated CD8 T cells that recognize epitopes from the challenging SIV strain. For T cells to recognize the epitopes, they must be presented on the major histocompatibility complex (MHC.) The limited genetic variability of MHC haplotypes in the insular Mauritian cynomogolous monkey population allows the determination whether protection will be aborted if the CD8 T cells fail to recognize the epitopes from the challenging virus.

3. Sallie Permar, Children's Hospital of Harvard University
Vaccine-induction of HIV/SIV-specific, Protective Immune Responses in Breast Milk

Although mother-to-child HIV transmission can occur through breast milk, the virus is transmitted in only 10% of HIV-exposed breastfed infants, suggesting that HIV-specific immunity in breast milk may interfere with such transmission. This project aims to test if a T-cell vaccine can elicit virus-specific immunity in breast milk in rhesus monkeys, as well as compare HIV-specific immunity in the breast milk of mothers that do or do not transmit HIV-1.

4. Keith Reeves, New England Primate Research Center
Role of Natural Killer Cells in Vaccine-elicited Control of HIV/SIV Infections

Recent data suggests that natural killer (NK) cells, an important mediator of the innate immune system, may play a role in defense against HIV infection. This project will examine the biology of NK cells in macaques and explore the role of NK cells in exerting control over SIV in monkeys infected with wild-type and live-attenuated virus.

5. Lili Yang, California Institute of Technology
Evaluation of a Dendritic Cell-Directed SIV Vaccine in Nonhuman Primates

This project aims to test the hypothesis that a non-integrating lentiviral vaccine targeting antigen delivery to dendritic cells can elicit strong SIV-specific immune responses in non-human primates.

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Last Updated August 27, 2009