Pilot Award Recipient: Rebecca Lynch, PhD

Rebecca Lynch

Elucidating the commensal-HIV reactive antibody repertoire in Rhesus macaques

July 20, 2016

Vaccines are currently being designed to elicit effective, neutralizing antibody responses that will protect against HIV infection. Analysis of samples from one vaccine trial in humans revealed that non-neutralizing antibodies were elicited, and that these antibodies target the HIV protein gp41. Furthermore, it was shown that these antibodies could be found before vaccination and in fact bind to bacteria in the gut. We believe that because these antibodies that target gut bacteria already exist, they are the first to be activated during HIV vaccination, but bind to suboptimal targets of HIV protein. This observation represents a hurdle to overcome in HIV vaccine design – how to activate neutralizing antibodies against HIV but NOT antibodies targeting gut bacteria that are non-neutralizing. Vaccine candidates are always tested first in Rhesus macaques before human trials. We propose to study if these same antibodies reported in humans exist in Rhesus macaques. If they do, the Rhesus macaque represents a good animal model for testing vaccine candidates. This study will have important implications for HIV vaccine testing which is a relevant issue to the local DC community.