Jose M. Martinez Navio, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, has been awarded an R01 grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) for his application, “Vectored delivery of anti-HIV antibodies for mucosal protection.”
The four-year, $3 million award is his first R01 grant, following an NIAID R21 award in 2020.
Dr. Martinez Navio received his Ph.D. from the University of Barcelona and joined the faculty in 2022 after serving as a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Ronald Desrosiers, Ph.D., professor and vice chair of basic research. Dr. Desrosiers says that he is excited about this achievement.
“Dr. Martinez Navio has been successful in many smaller grant applications, so it was just a matter of time before his efforts were rewarded by the NIH,” he said. “We have had the opportunity to assemble a great group of young researchers here that have really facilitated this recognition.”
In brief, the grant application was to build on the concept that the administration of potent and broadly neutralizing antibodies before viral exposure can confer protection against HIV acquisition. However, this approach is generally met with great expense and often only short-term protection. Thus, the goal of this study is to test different antibody types while delivering them persistently using a vector called AAV or adeno-associated virus.
AAV vectors can be engineered to carry the genetic material needed to teach the body how to produce such protective antibodies, perhaps for decades after a one-time administration.
“Unlike natural antibodies made in response to an antigen or vaccine, the antibody sequence contained in the AAV can be tailored to our specific needs, so that optimal protection can be achieved,” Dr. Martinez Navio said. “I am excited to have secured this senior award only a year after becoming a faculty member. My thanks to Dr. Desrosiers and our team for everything they have done to support my progress.”
“This is absolutely wonderful news,” commented Merce Jorda, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., professor and J.R. Coulter, Jr. Chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “This is testimony to the wonderful program that Dr. Desrosiers has built in this area of groundbreaking research. We all can’t wait to see what is next!”