David I. Watkins, Ph.D.
Professor of Pathology
Description of Research
With 7,000 people dying each day of HIV/AIDS, the development of an effective vaccine remains one of the world's top public health priorities. Historically successful approaches to vaccine development that elicit mostly antibody responses have proven unsuccessful for HIV. Therefore, Dr. Watkin's laboratory is attempting to develop vaccines that elicit cellular immune responses. To understand these responses in detail, they utilize the SIV-infected rhesus macaque as an animal model for our work. This model system allows us to follow all the cellular immune responses to the virus throughout the course of infection in both vaccinated and naive macaques.
In the last few years, our group has been engaged in several interesting studies:
- First, they have generated high levels of vaccine-induced CTL in MHC-defined macaques.
- Second, they have shown that cellular immune responses to HIV/SIV exert a strong selective pressure on the virus in the chronic phase of infection, implying an important role in the containment of viral infection.
- Most recently, they have identified an entirely novel category of virus specific CTL responses that emerge during the first weeks of infection that select for viruses resistant to these responses by eight weeks post-infection.
- Finally, they are trying to understand why certain individuals are resistant to disease progression after HIV infection. They have discovered several SIV-infected rhesus macaques that have survived for more than two years post-infection and we are using these unusual animals as models to understand long-term non-progression in humans.
Selected Cancer-Related Publications
Collaborating in the Multidisciplinary Research Program(s):