- The current main focus of my work is directed toward HIV vaccine development. Infection with HIV is initiated when the HIV envelope protein mediates binding of the virus to a target cell. Our aim is to harness the power of protective antibodies which can bind to the envelope protein and block infection. Vaccines can generate better immune responses when two different vaccine modalities are used in so-called prime/boost strategies. We have used DNA vectors expressing envelope protein for the first vaccination (prime) followed by a boost using purified protein. One aspect of my work involves improving the design of our DNA vectors to give more efficient priming. A hurdle to an HIV vaccine is the variability of the envelope protein across different viral strains. By manipulating the envelope protein to expose more conserved regions I hope to generate antibodies capable of blocking infection in diverse HIV isolates. These strategies will be utilized for preventative vaccine development and for producing antibodies that may be used in a topical microbicide. I am also involved in other studies focusing on the structure and function of the envelope protein.