Galit Alter, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in Medicine at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard and leads a laboratory that collectively works towards the single goal of developing novel vaccine approaches aimed at recruiting and directing the antiviral activity of the innate immune system to kill virally infected cells. Dr. Alter received her Ph.D. in Experimental Medicine from McGill University and performed her post-doctoral work under Dr. Marcus Altfeld at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Her current research interests lie at the intersection of the innate immune response and the adaptive humoral immune response, with a focus on defining the role of innate immune recruiting antibodies in providing specificity to the innate immune system to kill virally infected cells. Specifically, Dr. Alter’s work focuses on developing high-throughput assays aimed at dissecting the “protective profiles” and functional activity of polyclonal pools of antiviral antibodies induced via vaccination or during natural infection. To this end her laboratory has established high-throughput assays that simultaneously interrogate the functional activity of polyclonal pools of antibodies in tandem to defining the biophysical features of the most functional humoral immune responses. Together, Dr. Alter utilizes these data to then selectively purify the most “protective” antigen-specific B cells for RNA sequencing, to enable to production of the most potent therapeutic antibodies and to learn about the underlying mechanism by which protective B cell responses are programmed to aide in the development of next generation vaccines that may direct the antiviral activity of the innate immune response.
Dr. Robert F. Siliciano is a Professor of Medicine and Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 1995, his laboratory provided the first demonstration that latently infected memory CD4+ T cells were present in patients with HIV-1 infection. He showed that latently infected cells persist even in patients on prolonged antiretroviral therapy (ART). These studies indicated that eradication of HIV-1 infection with ART alone would never be possible, a finding which led to a fundamental change in the treatment strategy for HIV-1 infection. This latent reservoir is now recognized as the major barrier to curing HIV-1 infection and is the subject of an intense international research effort. Dr. Siliciano’s laboratory has gone on to characterize the reservoir and to explore strategies for eradicating it. In addition, Dr. Siliciano has developed a theoretical foundation for understanding the success of ART in controlling HIV-1 replication.
Dr. Siliciano graduated from Princeton and received his MD and PhD degrees from Johns Hopkins. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard, he joined the Hopkins faculty. He has received the Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and two NIH Merit Awards. He is a past Chairman of the NIH AIDS and Related Research Study Section. For 16 years, he directed the Hopkins MD-PhD Program, and he now serves as an advisor for MDPhD students. In 2008, he received a major award in AIDS research, the Bernard N. Fields Memorial Lecture at the Conference for Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.