Our laboratory studies the molecular biology of Retroviruses, a family of viruses that includes human immunodeficiency virus – the causative agent of AIDS. Our research has recently centered on studies aimed at defining, at a molecular level, the nature of the virus that establishes infection following heterosexual HIV-1 transmission, because it is this virus that any effective vaccine must control. Studies from a research team that encompasses investigators and research sites in Rwanda and Zambia, have allowed us to characterize the transmitted virus as well as define how the immune system responds to HIV infection. Ongoing studies are aimed at defining the unique biological and structural properties of the transmitted virus with the goal of targeting it with novel vaccine approaches.
Other studies in our laboratory have the goal of understanding aspects of retrovirus assembly and entry, so that this information can be used for the rationale design of anti-retroviral therapies. We are particularly interested in how surface structures of the virus mediate fusion of the viral membrane with that of a host cell and how the multiple components of the virus are transported inside the cell and are assembled into new infectious virus particles. These studies, which bridge the disciplines of cell biology and molecular biology, will allow the identification of novel targets for drug design.