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This week we profile a recent publication in PLOS Pathogens from the laboratory of
Dr. Julie Overbaugh (center) at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

We are primarily interested in understanding how HIV is transmitted, and in helping to define ways to prevent transmission and disease, primirily focused on understanding immune mechanisms that can block HIV. Our work focuses on HIV in highly vulnerable populations, including women and infants, as these are most relevant to HIV prevention, and we collaborate with investigators in Seattle and Kenya for these studies.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

This study characterized new antibodies that mediate antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) against HIV. Recent studies suggest that ADCC antibodies may help improve outcomes in HIV infection and thus understanding the epitopes they target and other features is important. We found antibodies that target a conserved region of HIV that can mediate ADCC. Such antibody responses may be useful for a HIV vaccine and the details of these antibodies provide insight into how these responses develop in natural infection.

What are the next steps for this research?

We are currently trying to infer the pathway that led to these antibodies. Where did they start (what is the naive B cell that was the source of these antibodies), how did they mutate to acquire their activity? This study of the B cell lineages that result in ADCC antibodies will help us understand the steps required to generate them, which could provide a template for vaccine design.

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