News & Opportunities

Monday, 04 December 2023

AHRI scientist receives SANTHE data award to advance HIV Curestudies

Kavidha Reddy, SANTHE Researcher/Supervisor based at the Africa Health
Research Institute (AHRI) in Durban, South Africa, has been awarded a
SANTHE Data Science Support Award to cover costs associated with her
projects on in-depth longitudinal characterisation of the HIV-1 clade C
reservoir – a major barrier to HIV-1 curative efforts.

HIV reservoir studies in African populations are limited, particularly in subtype
C HIV-1 infection, which is the most prevalent form of HIV-1 globally and
predominates in southern Africa. In this setting, the design of HIV cure
strategies and interventions to target the viral reservoir depends on a deeper
understanding of the variability in the size, composition, and characteristics of
the genetic landscapes of persisting reservoir genomes, which our research
studies aim to address.

“The award will help fund travel costs for myself and Tatenda Chikowore, my
PhD student, to the laboratory of Guinevere Lee at Weill Cornell Medicine in
New York, USA. Dr Lee is a long-standing collaborator and specialises in the
study of viral genetic diversity, reservoir cellular compartmentalisation, viral
genome sequencing (by Sanger, Illumina, PacBio, Nanopore), bioinformatics
(Python, R), and treatment outcome analysis (R). Here we will receive
training on computational bioinformatics analysis (specifically on the
HIVSeqinR v2.7.1 pipeline) that will allow us to perform extensive viral
genome sequence analysis to characterise the HIV-1 subtype C reservoir,”
says Reddy. “Early antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation decreases genetic
complexity and immune escape, and preserves innate immune factors, and
interventional strategies are more likely to be effective. We hope our ongoing
work will shed light on mechanisms that underlie control of viremia and HIV
reservoir decay in natural and ART-mediated viral suppression,” she says.

Finding an HIV cure remains a challenge in the fight against HIV infection. In-
depth characterisation of the HIV reservoir will ultimately inform the design of
therapeutic agents for selective eradication of the HIV reservoir.

SANTHE is an Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) flagship programme funded by the Science for Africa Foundation through the DELTAS Africa programme; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Gilead Sciences Inc.; and the Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT, and Harvard.