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Emma Parker Miller '22

Understanding the early stages of development of broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV

No established vaccine exists for HIV, in part because the virus mutates very rapidly and many strains exist. “Broadly neutralizing” antibodies are promising for HIV-1 vaccine design because they target many different strains of the virus, but their development is not well understood. It will be important to learn how the virus and antibodies evolve in response to each other within the body. In one HIV-infected patient, a “cooperating” antibody developed prior to the broadly neutralizing antibodies, possibly leading to their development. In my thesis, I characterized the interactions between this cooperating antibody with the HIV spike protein. In contrast to the current understanding in the field, my findings suggested that selective pressure applied to the virus by cooperating antibodies need not be in the same place as the binding site of the eventual broadly neutralizing antibodies.