The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Shiu-Lok Hu a $6.7 million grant that will enable his research team to join the Consortium for AIDS Vaccine Discovery (CAVD), an international network of scientists launched by the Gates Foundation to design novel HIV vaccine candidates and advance the most promising candidates to clinical trials. Hu is a WaNPRC core staff scientist and the Gibaldi Endowed Professor of Pharmaceutics at the UW School of Pharmacy.
Hu’s research project is entitled, “Unmasking conserved epitopes on HIV envelope protein for vaccine design.” Two co-investigators on the project are from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania: Jim Hoxie, professor of medicine and director of the Penn Center for AIDS Research, and Drew Weissman, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases. The third co-investigator is Shan Lu, professor of medicine, biochemistry and molecular pharmacology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The goal of their four-year study is to build upon the success of the “prime-boost” immunization method and to explore vaccine designs that may generate protective antibodies targeting the part of the virus it uses to bind to immune cells — the part widely considered the Achilles heel of the virus. Hu’s lab has previously shown that the removal of a specific glycan molecule on the envelope protein used by the virus to enter the host cell resulted in an enhanced ability of the mutant protein to induce neutralizing antibodies. Now Hu and his colleagues seek to uncover ways to further enhance this glycan-modified envelope vaccine design’s ability to provoke an immune response.
In other words, they hope to find a safe, effective vaccine that will help the immune system ward off HIV infection.
For more information, read the UW news release.