International team wins Wellcome Trust collaborative award
29 January 2019
A team comprising Greg Towers (I&I, UCL), David Selwood (WIBR, UCL), Leo James (LCMB, Cambridge), and Till Boecking and David Jacques (UNSW, Australia) have won a major collaborative award to study pandemic HIV.
What is special about pandemic HIV-1? How capsid cofactor interactions regulate DNA synthesis, innate immune detection and pandemic potential
There are twelve different types of HIV but just one has caused almost all 87 million infections. We aim to find out what is special about this common variant. We focus on the viral capsid, the core of the virus that cloaks HIV from immune detection by the infected cell. Cloaking requires recruitment of host proteins called cofactors that attach to the outside of the capsid. We will ask “What are cofactors doing to the virus and how does this differ between common and rare HIV?
Our interdisciplinary approach uniquely combines structural biology, infection experiments and examination of single viruses using microscopes. Ideas developed in one system can be tested in another providing unprecedented potential for understanding how HIV works and how the common virus is different. We will use this knowledge to develop drugs that uncloak the virus and empower our natural immune response, a completely new therapeutic approach.