The devastating AIDS epidemic in the 1980s led me to a career in the area of infectious diseases. While the major motivation for working in this area is to prevent or treat infections, I’ve also always loved the intellectual detective work involved in deciphering an illness.
My strong desire to investigate HIV led me to take part in and then lead HIV vaccine trials. Along the way, I learned the science of vaccinology. The interest I have in vaccines has increased over time, as the impact of vaccines on the health of children and adults is truly tremendous.
In the area of HIV biology, my laboratory focuses on the assembly process of the virus. I’m fascinated with how the virus interacts with host cells, especially with the host trafficking machinery. We are investigating how the HIV envelope protein becomes incorporated into budding particles and defining the cellular pathways that direct this process. Another project focuses on the cellular pathways that direct the internalization of HIV particles by macrophages and microglia, and how these cell types transmit virus to other cells in their environment.
I direct vaccine trials for adults and children, which extends my research interests beyond HIV to Ebola, SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens. My team and I are currently developing virus-like particle vaccines for Ebola, HIV and SARS-CoV-2.
I am the immediate past president of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and serve on that organization’s board. I have served on numerous study sections for the National Institutes of Health and I am currently on the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) of the Food and Drug Administration.
I am a member of the Leadership Group for the Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Collaborative, which aligns with the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases within the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This collaborative evaluates new vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases.
It’s important to me that I provide strong leadership and mentorship to early-career physician scientists. I lead our institutional Child Health Research Career Development Award (K-12) program.