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  • HIV molecular biology and pathogenesis

  • Dendritic Cell Biology

  • Lentiviral vector based therapeutic dendritic cell vaccine development

  • SARS-CoV-2 antibody and anti-viral drug development


Mammalian cells resist viruses through a collection of mechanisms termed innate or intrinsic immunity.  These mechanisms differ from the classical adaptive immune response in which B, T helper and cytolytic T cells recognize foreign antigens and clonally expand upon engagement of their antigen receptor.  Intrinsic and innate mechanisms are more general. They are active in many different cell types; some are constitutively active and others are induced by type-I interferons. Some innate immune mechanisms are activated by toll-like receptors or related proteins that warn the cell of the presence of a foreign invader by sensing the viral RNA or DNA in the cytoplasm of the cell. Over the course of evolution, viruses have responded by developing remarkable and diverse ways to escape the adaptive and innate responses.  A focus of our research is to understand how innate immune mechanisms restrict retroviruses and how the viruses counteract them.  We have contributed to understanding how two of these factors, APOBEC3 and SAMHD1, restrict HIV and how they are counteracted by the viral accessory proteins Vpx, Vpr and Vif. We are interested to identify new host restriction factors and to understand how cells sense the presence of invading pathogens.  Ultimately, we are interested to use our understanding to devise new therapeutic strategies that will mobilize the immune system to target pathogens. We are currently extending our interests to using this knowledge to mobilize the immune system to fight cancer.

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Host Restrictions to Viral infection:  From HIV to Zika.

We are working to understand how the work and how viruses evade their antiviral effects. 


Dendritic cell-targeted lentiviral vector development

We have developed a method to generate lentiviral vectors that counteract SAMHD1 allowing for high efficiency transduction of dendritic cells.


Genetic engineering of dendritic cells to fight viruses

We have developed methods to genetically program dendritic cells with lentiviral vectors to activate T cells and present endogenously produced peptide antigens express antigens, serving as second generation dendritic cell vaccines. 


Developing tools for COVID-19 research and new drugs

We have developed SARS-CoV-2 spike protein-pseudotyped lentiviruses that are highly useful for measuring neutralizing antibody to the virus. 


Soluble receptor as new therapeutic approach for COVID-19

The idea of using a soluble viral receptor as a therapeutic inhibitor of virus replication was first developed for HIV in the form of soluble CD4.  We have adapted that concept to SARS-CoV-2 by producing a recombinant soluble ACE2 which we term an “ACE2 microbody”.

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