Co-Director of the Developmental Core: Sylvia Silver, DA

Photo of Sylvia Silver
May 21, 2015

As Dr. Sylvia Silver, DA, remembers, her introduction to HIV research was serendipitous. “As a microbiologist, I was fascinated by what was being reported about this new disease and sought out fellow colleagues here at GW who were involved,” she explains. Now the Co-Director of the DC CFAR Developmental Core, Professor at the George Washington University Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine and Director of the George Washington University Biorepository, Silver explains that not only is HIV still an exciting area of research, but something that continues to fascinate her as our understanding of the virus and how it affects the human host evolves.

After receiving her Doctorate in Microbiology with a focus on microbiology and anaerobic bacteriology from Catholic University, Silver came to GW in 1978. As the HIV epidemic in DC heightened, she collaborated with GW researchers, assisted with planning HIV prevention activities for Montgomery County, led Metro TeenAIDS for five years and worked with the Metropolitan Washington Regional Ryan White Planning Council to provide input on the use of federal funds for the DC area. In these capacities, she was able to meet those affected and infected with the virus, shaping her passion for learning about HIV. In 1994, Silver was funded (and continues to be funded) for the AIDS and Cancer Specimen Resource, which led to a focus on biospecimen science, cryobiology and biobanking.   As the Director of the AIDS Malignancy Clinical Trial Consortium Biorepository, Dr. Silver assists researchers on the best ways to process, store and maintain specimens for translational research. Her knowledge and experience in biobanking led the NIH/National Cancer Institute to choose her to oversee the development of the Sub-Saharan Regional Biospecimen Repository for HIV malignancies at Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa. She reviews applications and serves on Advisory Committees for biobanks globally.

Dr. Silver also focuses on professional development and mentorship. She began this work in 2003, when she received the opportunity to work with the Aeras Global Tuberculosis Vaccine Foundation at their first clinical trial site in Cape Town, South Africa. Working with colleagues there, Silver spearheaded development of a model for professional development. The model insured that all members of the clinical research team receive personalized instruction to ensure their comprehension of the research question and research design as well as their role in the overall project. As a result of her work in South Africa, Silver and Dr. Gregory Hussey of the University of Cape Town received an NIH/Fogarty grant to expand the model to include clinical research education for other clinical researchers in Africa. She explains that this work was the foundation from which she contributes to the DC CFAR, saying, “It gave me insight for our CFAR application in professional development of early stage investigators and senior faculty transitioning to HIV research.”

Today her work is a marriage of professional development and biobanking. As a Co-Director of the Developmental Core, Silver is the Director of the Mentoring Program. She notes that it is especially important to support junior researchers in a “360 degree manner,” where the focus is on their research activities, grantsmanship and learning their institutions’ “yellow brick roads.”