The International Collaboration on Acute HIV Infection

Dr. Eduard Sanders is an Associate Professor of Tropical Medicine and Global Health at the University of Oxford, and based in Kilifi, Kenya. He is the principal investigator of several observational studies involving mostly men who have sex with men (MSM) and female sex workers (FSW) in Kilifi, and co-recipient of the Wellcome Trust DELTAS grant entitled “Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV research Excellence (SANTHE; 2015-2020). His interest in diagnosing acute HIV infections was inspired by the many MSM who sought health care prior to seroconversion in coastal Kenya, and the opportunity this presents for reducing onward HIV-1 transmission. He currently leads ongoing studies on the utility of clinical algorithms to identify and diagnose young adults with acute HIV infection at various health facilities in Kenya, enabling early treatment, counselling interventions, and assisted partner notification.

Dr. Eduard Sanders KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya

Professor Thumbi Ndung’u is interested in understanding antiviral immune mechanisms and viral adaptation in HIV-1 subtype C infection as a pathway to vaccine development or cure. The development of a vaccine or cure will be needed to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Rational vaccine design or cure strategies will require a better understanding of immune mechanisms of viral control and the characteristics of the transmitted/founder viruses. My laboratory is therefore focusing on studies of individuals with acute HIV-1 infection, in order to understand the nature of the transmitted viruses, virus adaptation to immune pressure and to understand immune responses associated with viral control (or lack of control) and how they can be improved and harnessed for vaccine or cure strategies.

Professor Thumbi Ndung’u Doris Duke Medical Research Institute, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Professor Sarah Rowland-Jones is a clinician scientist based in the Nuffield Department of Medicine in Oxford. For over 25 years she has led a research programme focusing on host-pathogen interactions in human infection with HIV and other viruses, aiming to identify immune correlates of protective immunity. A key focus of the group is the study of patient cohorts with distinct outcomes of HIV-1/2 infection and exposure, in collaboration with epidemiologists and clinicians in MRC Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Zimbabwe and China, leading to some of the earliest studies of T-cell responses in acute HIV-1 infection in both adults and infants. Between 2004-8 she was Research Director of the MRC Laboratories, The Gambia, where she focused on research into understanding HIV-2 infection, which leads to a high proportion of non-progressors. Detailed epidemiological, clinical and laboratory studies in a community HIV-2 cohort in a remote community cohort in Guinea-Bissau showed that people with long-term viral control in HIV-2 infection have a much more potent T cell response than those with progressive infection. These studies have provided valuable information for vaccine design.

Professor Sarah Rowland-Jones Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford

Dr. Krista Dong is an infectious diseases physician on faculty at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard. She began working in HIV clinical research in high-burden countries in 1995, and has been working at the forefront of the HIV epidemic in South African for the past 15-years. Her interest in acute HIV infection and cure research began in 2012 with design of the FRESH Acute HIV program in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. At FRESH she and her team are able to identify individuals during hyperacute HIV infection (71% during Fiebig stage I) and initiated suppressive ART within a median of 1 day after HIV-RNA detection. She has extensive experience running clinical research programs for the purpose of conducting HIV immunological studies, as well as extensive knowledge of the local setting, cultural norms and potential challenges.

Dr. Krista Dong Massachusetts General Hospital and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard

Godelieve de Bree is consultant internal medicine with subspecialty infectious disease and clinical immunology at the University of Amsterdam. Godelieve is currently involved in studies on the properties of the immune response in acute HIV infection. Since 2013, Godelieve is coordinating the recently initiated HIV Transmission Elimination Amsterdam (H-TEAM) initiative aiming at providing a city based approach for improving prognosis of HIV infected individuals and reducing HIV transmission in Amsterdam. As part of the H-TEAM, she is coordinating the Netherlands Cohort Study on Acute HIV infection (a collaboration between the Academic Medical Center Amsterdam and Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam, the Netherlands).

Dr Godelieve de Bree

Amsterdam Institute of Global Health and Development, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

How quickly a person develops AIDS after HIV infection varies widely (1-31 years). The majority of this variation remains unexplained and previous publications by us and others indicate that the rate of disease progression is determined during the earliest stages of infection, the so-called acute HIV infection. My research profile is highly translational in using state-of-the-art bioinformatics and phylogenetics to simultaneously associate clinical, immunological and viral evolutionary data from acute HIV infection to increase our understanding of how host responses and viral escape mechanisms regulate HIV disease progression. A better understanding of the determinants of HIV disease progression will open up new avenues for future treatment and prevention strategies.

Dr Joakim Esbjornsson University of Oxford

Dr. Susan M. Graham is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Global Health, and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Washington in Seattle and a Visiting Scientist at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Programme in Kilifi, Kenya. Her major research interests are in two areas: (1) HIV treatment and prevention, with a focus on marginalized populations; and (2) HIV pathogenesis and disease progression. Her work on HIV treatment and prevention in Kenya has focused on female sex workers at the Ganjoni Clinic in Mombasa and on men who have sex with men (MSM) at the KEMRI clinics on the coast and at the Anza Mapema programme in Kisumu. Her work has also focused on genital HIV-1 shedding and its impact on HIV transmission and on the identification of novel biomarkers of increased cardiovascular risk in HIV-infected patients.

Dr Susan Graham University of Washington, Seattle, USA & KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya

Dr. Amin Hassan is a postdoctoral researcher with a Masters degree in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a PhD from the University of Amsterdam. He is currently working with the HIV/STI studies group based at the KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kilifi, Kenya with an interest in understanding HIV-host interactions and their contribution to disease pathogenesis. To do this, Dr. Hassan is using samples from well-characterized cohorts from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, South Africa and Sweden, effectively covering the most common circulating global subtypes. He aims to characterize the virus using single genome sequencing and profile innate immune responses by multiplexing. He will then use advanced multi-dimensional phylogenetic models to elucidate the interactions between the virus and the host, and how these contribute to acute retroviral syndrome and their subsequent effects on disease progression through to the chronic phase. It is envisaged that work from his project may have implications for prophylactic and therapeutic HIV vaccine design

Dr Amin S. Hassan MSc, PhD KEMRI/Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya