Program Overview

The AIDS and Cancer Virus Program works to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of HIV infection and AIDS-related tumors through basic, applied, and translational research, including development and sharing of novel experimental models, reagents and analytical methods. 

Through investigator-driven research and extensive collaborations between our research sections and research support cores with scientists within and outside the National Institutes of Health, our researchers address key remaining challenges in the prevention and treatment of HIV infection and associated conditions.     

To improve HIV prevention, the AIDS and Cancer Virus Program pursues both innovative vaccine and non-vaccine approaches. Some of our studies focus on: 

  • Developing novel models, reagents, and approaches for in vivo models to study key aspects of how AIDS viruses infect susceptible individuals and cause disease, identifying potential targets for intervention.
  • Evaluating new antiretroviral drugs, vaccines, and immunotherapies. 
  • Understanding how other viruses, such as KSHV, can cause malignancies in the setting of AIDS virus induced immunosuppression.  

Much of the work involves the development and application of novel nonhuman primate models, including construction of “designer viruses” that provide new insights into disease mechanisms and approaches to prevention and treatment.   

The program also develops and shares research materials and experimental models with the HIV research community. 

Program Innovations

RNAscope image of SIV
Lymph node RNAscope showing SIV-infected cells (red). CD4T cells (green) are the main targets of the virus along with macrophages (blue). The phase contrast (grey) helps define tissue architecture. Image from the Tissue Analysis Core.
  • Developed and validated model AIDS viruses with molecular labels to track virus transmission, replication, persistence and post-treatment viral rebound in nonhuman primate models.
  • Developed highly sensitive and specific methods for quantitation of AIDS virus nucleic acid sequences in blood and tissue samples from nonhuman primate models and clinical samples.
  • Developed combination antiretroviral drug regimens capable of achieving clinically relevant levels of AIDS virus suppression in rigorous nonhuman primate models.
  • Engineered immune cells able to localize at sites of persistent virus, and exert antiviral activity. 
  • Developed next generation in situ hybridization methods for highly sensitive and specific identification and quantitation of HIV and SIV RNA and DNA in tissue sections, in combination with multiplexed immunostaining.
  • Comprehensively characterized for the first time antibody and T cell responses to Kaposi’s sarcoma–associated herpesvirus antigens across the full viral proteome.
  • Developed a novel method for inactivating infectivity of AIDS viruses while preserving structure, enabling detailed electron microscopic characterization of vaccine-relevant structures on authentic virus particles.