Research-for-Cure Academy

Bianca Da Costa Dias

Nationality: South Africa
Institution: The National Institute of Communicable Diseases & Wits University
Country of work: South Africa

What is your motivation for engaging in HIV cure and remission research?

My research interest in HIV-1 cure research stem from my desire to curb the social and economic burdens of the HIV-1 epidemic in South Africa. Although current treatment programmes have been effective in improving the quality of life of infected individuals, the ultimate goal is to achieve a functional cure which would reduce rates of transmission as well as the strain placed on health care systems, especially in resource limited countries. I am particularly passionate about paediatric HIV-1 infection, with a particular interest in novel approaches that may help alleviate the severe developmental and metabolic consequences of life-long ARV therapy.

What is your current area of research?

I am interested in better understanding the current barrier to HIV eradication, namely the viral reservoir, as well as strategies to augment the hosts’ immune system to achieve virological control. In line with these interests, I am currently quantifying the HIV-1 viral reservoir in paediatric cohorts initiated on therapy at different time points after birth. I am also involved in immunologically phenotyping (by multicolour- flow cytometry) paediatric and adult cohorts, with the hope of identifying cell subsets chiefly affected by early treatment and natural spontaneous control (Elite Controllers).