Institution: Africa Health Research Institute
Country of work: South Africa
What is your motivation for engaging in HIV cure and remission research?
Even though the roll-out of antiretroviral drugs has greatly improved the quality of life of HIV patients, the requirement to take the drugs for life is a major economic burden to the most affected countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa countries. The need to take medication regularly also confers a significant pill burden to HIV patients, leading to poor adherence and treatment failure. An HIV cure will be more an economically sustainable solution to the epidemic. It will also reduce the risk of poor adherence, leading to better viral control.
What is your current area of research?
I am investigating the determinants of effective immune responses in natural HIV infection. In particular, I am studying if certain types of B cells, called regulatory B cells, inhibit T cell responses to allow persistence of HIV replication. Depleting them could enable the control of viral replication, leading to functional cure. Our group is also planning a clinical trial that aims to induce cure in early cART-treated patients by administering broadly neutralizing antibodies. I am also isolating novel broadly neutralizing anti-HIV monoclonal antibodies that could be used in the future to cure or treat HIV.