Three Infectious Diseases Division faculty members are recipeints of a RUSTBELT CFAR Pilot Grant Award this year! The following innovative research projects were selected for funding:

Anna J. Jasinska, PhD, MSc: Aging in the non-human primate model of AIDS. Dr. Jasinska holds the rank of Assistant Professor of Medicine in the ID Division. Dr. Jasinska’s project will leverage experience she gained creating an atlas of gene expression and catalog of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) across multiple tissues and methods such as generating novel functional gene annotations based on gene expression that informs identification of signals of pathogen-driven natural selection in a natural non-human primate (NHP) host of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). The goals of this study are to 1) identify candidate cellular targets (immune and nonimmune cells that suffer most from the virus-related age acceleration) for development of precisely addressed therapy; 2) identify pathoaging biomarkers to guide personalized preventive care, such as early additional testing; and, 3) provide a model for preclinical assessments of antiaging strategies in HIV/AIDS.

Wei Li, PhD, and, Jana L. Jacobs, PhD: Development of next-generation CD4-based entry inhibitors for preventing HIV-1 infection. Dr. Li holds the rank of Assistant Professor of Medicine, and, Dr. Jacobs holds the rank of Research Assistant Professor of Medicine. This study will engineer and optimize a long-lasting, smaller and highly stable sCD4-D1 molecule for prevention of HIV infection. Long-acting preventatives with high barriers to resistance are still needed for HIV infection and would be valuable tools in the fight against HIV, especially in the absence of a cure. Drs. Li and Jacobs will work to identify potent, molecules for further evaluation of pharmacokinetics in animals by 1) engineering a stable sCD4-D1 single domain with no/low binding to MHC II, but with preserved or enhanced binding to HIV gp120, and, 2) evaluating the capacity of newly engineered sCD4-D1 to neutralize clinical isolates of HIV-1, including different subtypes The goal of a long-acting, potent, broadly neutralizing engineered protein could have a significant impact on HIV prevention for which an effective vaccine has not been identified.

Please join us in congratulating the 2023 RUSTBELT CFAR University of Pittsburgh Pilot Grant Award recipients and wishing them great success in their HIV-AIDS research!