Former CRI Fellow Who Made Breakthrough AIDS Research Discovery Named Assistant Professor
April 05, 2013 |
Xueling Wu, a CRI postdoctoral fellow from 2003-2006, has recently been appointed an assistant professor at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at The Rockefeller University in New York City.
Although the search for an effective vaccine against HIV/AIDS has eluded scientists for decades, new research by Dr. Xueling Wu at ADARC may offer critical insights into HIV-1 vaccine development. Dr. Wu took part in a recent breakthrough at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health, when she isolated the monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) VRC01 - 03 (named after the Vaccine Research Center). This 2010 discovery is significant because once these kinds of antibodies are defined by gene sequences, scientists are able to find and track them in the human body. The isolation of neutralizing monoclonal antibodies against HIV-1 is a promising new field of study.
Dr. Wu, a recently appointed assistant professor at ADARC, was born in the city of Guilin in Southern China. She attended Tongji Medical University in China to study Clinical Medicine, where her interactions with patients and their families helped her develop a sense of social responsibility. She decided to pursue a career in science through a Ph.D. program in the department of Microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). There, she became involved in HIV-1 research, and later joined the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where she was supported by a three-year CRI postdoctoral fellowship award. During her fellowship, she worked to identify and characterize HIV-1 envelope sequences that elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies. She also joined the Vaccine Research Center at the NIH. Under the tutelage of Dr. John Mascola and in collaborations with Dr. Michel Nussenzweig at The Rockefeller University, she was the first to successfully identify the broadly neutralizing mAbs VRC01 - 03, which will form the base of her research at ADARC.
"The Cancer Research Institute postdoctoral fellowship definitely helped my career development," Wu wrote in an email to CRI.
At ADARC, Dr. Wu has several ambitious goals. She would like to identify additional vulnerable spots on the HIV-1 envelope - the virus' outer coat, and to look closely at the human immune system to elucidate the pathways for the production of HIV-1 neutralizing antibodies. While isolating VRC01 was a success, we still do not understand how these antibodies are generated by the body. Dr. Wu hopes to examine the early stages of antibody development to understand how to induce this type of antibody through immunization. Her goal is to identify and develop HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies as clinical products that can be used to treat, as well as prevent HIV infection, and to derive immunogen information for HIV-1 vaccine design.
"I have no doubt that Xueling will be a major contributor to the Institute's effort in coming up with strategies to block HIV transmission," said David Ho, scientific director of ADARC.