The Retroviral Evolution Section conducts groundbreaking research to better understand fundamental features of HIV transmission, persistence, and evolution that allow the pathogen to continue evading eradication strategies. 

Our scientists harness molecular biology approaches to generate, manipulate, and employ novel viral systems to take full advantage of the unique benefits afforded by nonhuman primate models to test specific hypotheses in vivo


Retroviral transmission and early viral dynamics 

  • Study the process involved in initial HIV transmission. 
  • Assess viral requirements essential for successful transmission. 
  • Address the viral/host mechanics and dynamics that occur between initial virus exposure and detectable plasma viremia weeks later. 
  • Understand the process of mucosal transmission. 
  • Develop new approaches for transmission assessment. 

Reservoir establishment and persistence 

  • Gain unique insights into the complex nature of viral reservoirs, which enable HIV to accumulate and persist. 
  • Use insights on reservoir formation and rebound to inform intervention strategies seeking a functional cure of HIV. 
  • Use a developed barcoded virus system to track and quantify individual viral variants during the establishment of viral reservoirs. 
  • Identify the number and dynamics of rebounding viral lineages once suppressive therapy is removed. 

Retroviral dynamics of evolution 

  • Understand the dynamics involved in driving the generation of viral mutations, the phenotypic consequences of these mutations, and the resulting process of fitness selection. 
  • Discover how adaptation occurs within individual, genetically defined viral lineages using molecular barcodes. 
  • Use specialized virus and nonhuman primate models to identify potential viral weaknesses that can be exploited through thoughtful interventions.