IAVI REPORT – VOL. 14, NO. 5, 2010
In September, more than 1,000 researchers gathered in Atlanta for AIDS Vaccine 2010. The feeling of optimism that has been palpable in the field over the past year persisted as a plethora of new, incremental scientific advances were reported over the course of the four-day meeting. And as usual, we devote a substantial amount of this issue to reporting on these advances (see A Change of Tune).
The antibody frenzy that kicked off a year ago with the first report of new HIV-specific broadly neutralizing antibodies continued in Atlanta. Several groups have fished out dozens of additional broadly neutralizing antibodies from HIV-infected individuals. Despite the ease with which researchers now seem to be able to isolate these antibodies, they are indeed rare. Only 1%-2% of HIV-infected individuals make very broad neutralizing antibodies. While it isn’t clear what allows certain people to generate such antibodies, researchers are now exploring genetic factors as a possible explanation. They are also using genomic sequencing techniques to analyze how antibodies develop a series of mutations from their germline form, allowing them to better bind to and neutralize HIV.
Another focus is on the structural details of these antibodies and how these insights can be used to engineer immunogens based on the HIV epitopes they target. Immunogen design is a burgeoning area of research, and though it poses many challenges, researchers are combining the principles of structural and computational biology to design immunogens capable of eliciting antibodies in animal models. Given the importance of immunogen design, it will be the focus of the next iteration of the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology, details for which were outlined recently (see Vaccine Briefs).
While developments in the antibody arena are likely to continue, more clinical trial activity is also expected. One new trial began recently (see Vaccine Briefs), and the plans for several others were outlined in Atlanta.
To round out this issue, there is a profile of Brandon Keele, a young researcher who recently established a laboratory at the National Cancer Institute after a successful six-year postdoctoral stint at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (see Luck Favors the Prepared). Keele’s work led to publication of several seminal papers, and in this article he discusses some of the factors that contributed to his success.
—Kristen Jill Kresge, Managing Editor