The adage, “Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood,” is something Reddy says she strongly believes in and inspired her choice to pursue a career in HIV science. She was born and grew up in the suburb of Chatsworth in the south of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal South Africa. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Westville campus in 2013. Thereafter, she completed an Honours degree in Medical Microbiology at UKZN Medical School campus. It was during her honours year that she was exposed to TB and HIV research. “I was deeply inspired by the work done at the KwaZulu Natal Research Institute for TB and HIV (K-RITH), now Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), and was given the prestigious opportunity of pursuing my Master’s degree under the supervision of some of the world’s best scientists.”
Reddy’s research project focuses on how the body fights HIV infection and more specifically the workings of the body’s immune proteins that are known to block or fight off HIV infection. For her Masters project she has been interested in characterising an important component of the human innate immune system called APOBEC3 proteins and its interaction with HIV. APOBEC3 proteins can cause mutations in HIV and thereby disable the virus. As a counter attack, HIV expresses a small protein called viral infectivity factor (Vif) that is able to destroy APOBEC3 proteins before they can block HIV infection. There are seven different forms of APOBEC3 proteins and Reddy’s research focusses on how the small HIV Vif protein is able to adapt itself to destroy the multiple APOBEC3 proteins that the body’s immune system uses to defend itself. Studying the interplay between these human proteins and the virus may lead to development of new therapies or vaccines, particularly for populations burdened heavily with HIV. Within South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal is the epicenter of the HIV pandemic and continues to struggle with high a rate of HIV infection. Finding a safe, effective and durable HIV vaccine remains a priority in the fight against HIV and understanding these virus-host interactions may bring us a little closer. For her PhD, she plans on extending her study to investigate the APOBEC3/HIV interaction in greater detail.