Dr. Cynthia Derdeyn & Emory University
NIH R01-AI174979 $4,002,880
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is providing financial support to Dr. Derdeyn and her collaborators at Emory National Primate Research Center (ENPRC) for their research on HIV vaccines before human testing. They have demonstrated that the vaccine triggers strong levels of protective antibodies capable of preventing infection. Additionally, they have identified the specific vaccine components that these antibodies target. These discoveries are driving the development of new approaches to enhance protection.
The similarity between the protective antibodies produced in response to the vaccine in both monkeys (nonhuman primates or NHPs) and humans is being illustrated. By monitoring the development of these antibodies, the Derdeyn Lab is gaining comprehensive insights into this complex process. Their work underscores the value of the monkey model in fully comprehending this mysterious mechanism. Their findings, demonstrating the production of similar protective antibodies in both monkeys and humans, are advancing efforts to create an effective HIV vaccine.
Dr. Michael Gale, Jr.
NIH P01 AI177688 $8,472,008
The goal of this project is to define the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which IL-15 programs protective immunity with the RhCMV-SIV vaccine to inform our understanding of HCMV-HIV vaccine immunity against HIV.
The world needs a good vaccine for HIV/AIDS, and the Gale Lab is studying a candidate using a virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV). It’s very effective and long-lasting at stopping the virus from multiplying in the Rhesus Macaque-SIV model. This vaccine works by activating a type of immune response that’s a bit unusual, and it also increases the levels of a protein called IL-15, which helps protect against HIV.
They are seeking to figure out exactly how this vaccine and IL-15 work together to create protection and to use that knowledge to test the vaccine in people in phase I/II trials. In simpler terms, they’re trying to understand how a specific vaccine using CMV and IL-15 can protect against HIV, then building on this information to develop better HIV vaccines for humans.
Dr. Megan O’Connor
NIH R21AI170094-01A1 $706,000
NIH R01HL165933-01A1 $3,876,310
Dr. O’Connor‘s R21 study aims to understand how a new type of COVID-19 vaccine works in a monkey model of HIV/AIDS, which mimics immune problems. The information the lab is gathering will help make this vaccine better for global use, even in places with fewer resources, and for people with weakened immune systems, like those with HIV.
With the R01 funding, the O’Conner Lab is studying how HIV affects our immune system and gut bacteria when it comes to COVID-19. Through their work involving monkeys with HIV, they are learning how our immune system affects COVID-19 in the lungs and how having a weaker immune system can make COVID-19 worse.
Dr. Amy Orsborn
NIH R01NS134634-01 $701,214
Dr. Amy Orsborn‘s project aims to make brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) better. BCIs can help paralyzed people move, but they have problems lasting a long time and working well in different situations. This is because our brains change when we use BCIs a lot, and this affects how well they work. The Orsborn Labs wants to understand these changes and use them to make BCIs more reliable. We will use monkeys to study how their brains change when they control a computer cursor with their thoughts. We will also use special implants to see what’s happening in their brains over 10 days.
The laboratory has three main goals:
- See if the way they program the BCI (called the decoder) affects how the brain organizes information (called the encoder). This can make BCIs more resistant to signal loss (when the brain can’t send signals) and changes in tasks.
- Check if the decoder also influences how specific the encoder is to certain BCI movements. This can make BCIs better at adapting to different tasks.
- Develop new computer methods that can make BCIs more robust without making them perform worse. By studying these things, they hope to make BCIs using brain plasticity to work better for a long time and in different situations.
Dr. Anitha Pasupathy
NIH U01 NS131810-01 $3,315,014
Dr. Pasupathy and her collaborators’ main aim is to deeply and precisely understand how different parts of the primate brain work together when making decisions based on what they sense. They want to create detailed maps that show how different areas of the brain communicate with each other down to the level of individual cells.
They’re going to create new methods that will help them:
- Accurately find linked brain cells in different parts of the brain, both near the surface and deep within it.
- Use advanced scanning technology and special recording devices to see and understand how these brain cells work in larger groups.
- Study how these groups of brain cells work together while animals do tasks that are relevant to their natural behaviors.
By doing this, they hope to learn how different parts of the brain talk to each other and combine what they sense and know to help animals make sense of their surroundings. This research will also help us understand and develop ways to treat brain problems that affect how we recognize objects or how different parts of our brain communicate, like what happens in conditions like agnosia or autism.
Dr. Dorothy Patton
NIH R01-AI175153-01 $5,084,750
Drs. Dorothy Patton and Lucia Vojtech are planning to study whether a type of bacteria, called C. trachomatis (CT), that causes infections in the rectal area might actually protect against infections in other parts of the body, like the genital area. They’ve seen an increase in these rectal infections in clinics that deal with sexually transmitted infections, but they’re not sure how these infections affect the body’s ability to fight off the bacteria or prevent future infections.
In previous studies with mice, researchers found that when the animals were infected with a similar bacteria in their rectal area, it made them less likely to get infected in their genital area. This suggests that a rectal infection might help the body’s immune system learn how to defend against infections in different areas. However, it’s not known if this also happens in humans when they naturally get infected with CT.
To find out, researchers are using a group of pigtail macaques, which have similar responses to infections as humans. They’re infecting these monkeys with CT in their rectal area and then observing if this protects them from getting infected in their genital area later on. At the same time, they’re also studying how the immune system responds to rectal infections with CT in humans.
By comparing the results from the monkey and human studies, the researchers aim to see if a rectal infection triggers a stronger immune response that can better protect against future infections compared to infections in the genital area. This information could help them develop vaccines that provide better protection against CT infections in humans, especially in the genital area, and prevent the most severe consequences of these infections.
More new funding:
- R01 AI174979 (Derdeyn, PI) – Tracking the evolutionary trajectory of neutralizing antibodies following BG505 SOSIP immunization in rhesus macaques, $822,777 (current FY)
- R21AI168739 (Shears, PI)** – Malaria vaccine evaluation in a novel infant NHP challenge model, $353,000
- R44AI179440 (Frizzell/Fuller, MPI) – Clinic-ready MACH-1 Gene Gun for Delivery of a Universal Influenza DNA vaccine, $996,500
- U19AI166058-supplement (Keim PD, Fuller Project PI) – Early In Vivo Expressed Antigens and their Role in Virulence, Immune Response and Vaccines for Coccidioidomycosis, $1,390,215
- R01AI170214 (Peterson, PI)** – Developing Durable, Env-Boosted CAR T Cells for HIV Cure, $893,464
- R01AI174304 (Lieber/Kiem, MPI) – In vivo HSC gene therapy using a multi-modular HDAd vector for HIV cure, $685,904
- amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research (Lieber/Kiem, MPI), – Portable gene therapy treatment, $480,000