Global Fellows Research Academy

Kumitaa Theva Das

Nationality: Malaysia
Institution: Advanced Medical and Dental Institute, Universiti Sains Malaysia
Country of work: Malaysia

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

When I was younger, an ad depicting drug users who succumb to AIDS was played repeatedly on the television. It piqued my curiosity on HIV eradication and led me to pursue HIV research during my PhD. In graduate school, I volunteered at an AIDS clinic. As I met people living with HIV, those who faced stigma, and unequal gender relations, it fueled my passion to try harder in HIV cure and remission research. I believe that one day, AIDS - the disease often thought of as incurable, will be cured.

What is your current area of research?

My research focuses on gene therapy against HIV/AIDS where CRISPR, a genome editing tool, is used to manipulate the expression of host and viral genes to control HIV virulence and replication. Previously, my lab demonstrated that knocking down multiple conserved regions of HIV reduces viral load. I then integrated the information learned from working with HIV seropositive patients in Malaysia to better my research. Currently, I am working on mimicking the elite controllers’ immunity in HIV positive patient samples using CRISPR to determine if this method of enhancing the immune response is able to control the viral replication and eradicate HIV persistence.