The Division of Structural Biology brings together a diverse range of expertise, including X-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), negative stain EM, small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), molecular dynamics, biophysics and biochemistry, to understand the interactions of the HIV-1 Env with the human immune system. Working in close collaboration with other DHVI groups, we use structural information to guide vaccine design against HIV-1 and other viruses.
One of our major goals is to understand how the immune system responds to and mounts a defense against HIV-1 infection. To do this we are characterizing entire lineages of antibodies to understand their initiation and maturation to achieve potent neutralization of diverse HIV-1 strains. Another major goal we are pursuing is to understand the mechanism of HIV-1 entry. By combining structural analyses with biophysics and computation, we seek to understand the structural transitions that occur in the HIV-1 Envelope (Env) during viral entry. The knowledge gained from a basic understanding of HIV-1 Env conformational flexibility together with an understanding of how Env interacts with the immune system will enable us to design immunogens to guide the immune system to initiate and mature broadly neutralizing antibodies as a response to vaccination.