May 28, 2015

DHVI Faculty Member Awarded RO1 Grant

DHVI Faculty Member, Dr. Kevin Saunders Awarded RO1 Grant from the NIAID 

Kevin O. Saunders, PhD was awarded a R01 grant from the NIAID to support his studies on the antibody response to HIV-1 Envelope glycans.  The glycans on HIV-1 envelope are host molecules that create heterogeneity among Envelope proteins and hinder the recognition of Envelope by the immune system. Antibodies from chronically HIV-infected individuals targeting these glycans alone or in conjunction with the surrounding protein can neutralize diverse strains of HIV-1. However, glycan-dependent antibody responses had not been found in previous HIV-1 Envelope vaccination studies until Dr. Saunders and colleagues isolated monoclonal antibodies from vaccinated nonhuman primates that target a glycan-dependent epitope at asparagine 332 on HIV-1 Envelope. During the course of this R01 grant they will fully characterize the anti-HIV functions and developmental pathways of these antibodies.  The team will also be investigating novel immunogens and immunization strategies to boost this particular antibody response in vaccinated macaques.  In total, Dr. Saunders expects to provide  a better understanding of the immunogenicity of HIV-1 envelope glycans, and to provide antibody templates for B cell lineage immunogen design. These efforts aim to bolster the glycan-dependent antibody response to broadly neutralizing epitopes induced by Env vaccination in rhesus macaques and humans.