Global Fellows Research Academy
Nationality: South Africa
Institution: University of KwaZulu-Natal
Country of work: South Africa
What is your motivation for engaging in HIV cure and remission research?
Sub-Saharan Africa region is mostly affected by HIV epidemic. Although more people have access to antiretroviral therapy, it is unable to eradicate the virus and lifelong thereby exerting a financial strain on resource limited countries. This necessitates further research to develop strategies for HIV cure. My research interest is on characterization of the HIV-1 LTR promoter, essential in driving viral transcription and productive infection. Understanding HIV-1 LTR might inform its manipulation for suppressing viral gene transcription thereby achieving functional cure. This opportunity will enable me to receive high-level multidisciplinary training on current state of the art in HIV cure research.
What is your current area of research?
My area of research is on genetic characterization of HIV-1 subtype C (HIV-1C) LTR promoter obtained from acute infection cohort of black South Africans. This study seeks to generate data that will inform manipulation of HIV-1 LTR as a strategy for suppressing viral gene expression thereby achieving a functional cure. Interestingly, our unpublished data demonstrate the existence of genetic variation within the HIV-1 LTR that have been shown to impact promoter activity, replication kinetics and virulence of HIV-1 subtypes. The ongoing experiments include determining the transcriptional activity of different LTR variants and associate this with HIV-1 latent infection and reservoir size.