Does already having HIV decrease your chance of getting infected again?

30 Aug 2013, by Erick

If you have HIV, it is possible to get a second strain from an independent transmission event. However, does having one strain protect you to some degree from getting a second? That’s a difficult question, and requires a big cohort and a lot of work to answer. We worked with Julie Overbaugh’s group on this question for a number of years, and the paper for that project just came out showing that yes, it can. This is good news in general, and for researchers working on HIV vaccines it indicates that there is something that the immune system can do against HIV. This project was driven forward by the indomitable postdoc Keshet Ronen, an alum of Rick Bushman’s lab. Many people contributed, but Keshet did everything from experiment design to loads of sample prep all the way through to doing the hard-core biostatistics that revealed this result. Connor implemented all of the bioinformatics for this project and we worked together on the design.

This paper has special meaning for me, as it’s because of this project that I am here at the FHCRC and why Connor is here as well. When I was a postdoc at Berkeley I went to a talk by Julie about the previous iteration of this project and in a conversation with her afterward, she suggested that I apply to the position here at the FHCRC. I came and when it became clear that the analysis was too much for me to take on by myself while keeping up the rest of my research program, she offered up money to hire Connor, who has become an essential part of the group on all fronts. Julie has been a fantastic mentor, always brings insightful perspective, and is the most generous collaborator I have worked with.

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