Marcel Tongo Passo 

SANTHE Collaborative Grant Awardee,
SANTHE Consortium Steering Committee Member,
SANTHE Site Principal Investigator

Centre de Recherche sur les Maladies Emergentes et Reemergentes (CREMER)/Institut de Recherches Médicales et d’Etudes des Plantes Médicinales (IMPM)


Characterising currently circulating HIV in rural forest areas of Cameroon, where ancestors of HIV-1 have been identified

Collaboration Interests
  • Molecular virology
  • Prevention and control of zoonotic diseases
  • Viral immunology

Marcel Tongo Passo returned to his home country, Cameroon, in 2018 after his post-graduate training in South Africa. He sought to establish an independent research career, build his own laboratory, and recruit some PhD Fellows. His major interest lies in understanding the mechanisms of strain selection during HIV emergence. The extraordinary diversity of HIV-1 group M poses the most important obstacle to the development of both a cure and an effective vaccine. The Congo Basin area is the epicenter of HIV-1 emergence and has the broadest HIV diversity with numerous recombinant forms and unique strains. It is therefore particularly important to fully understand the biological underpinnings of this diversity: both how it arose, spreads, and impacts the extent and duration of individual sub-epidemics. A successful vaccine and cure strategy has to deal with the issues of HIV emergence and understand the factors governing emergence, as the vaccine formulas should cover all the emergent strains in order for the strategy to be effective.

Tongo Passo also has some interest in monitoring the occurrence of past and current viral zoonoses in the Congo Basin region which has one of the highest human-animals interaction; as the global crisis precipitated by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic clearly illustrates the consequences of a single viral zoonotic transmission into human populations.

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.