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Selected Research Projects

To complement and extend NIRC’s contract research portfolio, the Center is building an investigator led academic research program in collaboration with scientists from across the world with a focus on infectious disease. Information about select federally funded projects in NIRC’s portfolio are provided below:

Monitoring SIV Reservoirs with Whole Body ImmunoPET |National Institutes of Health Project PI(s): Dr. Francois Villinger, UL Lafayette & Dr. Philip Santangelo, Georgia Tech

In this project, we are working to optimize our new and unique imaging method using positron emission tomography (PET) with simultaneous X-ray computed tomography (CT) to determine real-time whole body maps of simian immunodeficiency virus replication sites in rhesus monkeys during acute and post-acute infection, during antiretroviral therapy and after cessation of such therapy to identify viral reservoirs and the sites from which virus replication reemerges after interruption of treatment. This project also expands to evaluate total body distribution of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, production sites of select immune molecules such as MAdCAM-1 and others, to advance our understanding of immune and pathological processes on a macro level and better focus investigations at the micro level.

Resource for Nonhuman Primate Immune Reagents |National Institutes of Health Project PI(s): Dr. Francois Villinger, UL Lafayette

The purpose of this project is to provide NIH funded investigators using nonhuman primates as preclinical models for human disease and immunotherapy a resource for obtaining nonhuman primate recombinant cytokines, chemokines and other primate specific immune reagents and specialized analyses of biological function.

Development of Rectal Enema as Microbicide (DREAM) |National Institutes of Health (NIAID) Subaward through Johns Hopkins University, Project PI(s): Dr. Craig Walter Hendrix, Johns Hopkins Univ. & Dr. Francois Villinger, UL Lafayette

A safe, effective HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis strategy with high levels of adherence is urgently needed to protect men and women at highest risk of HIV infection from anal sex, where transmission risk per sex act far exceeds that of cervicovaginal transmission. Recent data from the US population has shown a recrudescence of new infections, mainly in economically limited populations. This project explores novel strategies to achieve protection from rectal HIV transmission using tenofovir based rectal microbicides that are combined with hypotonic enema and mucus penetrating nanoparticles to promote uptake of the drug by the rectal epithelium leading to lasting protective effect from challenge.  This project aims for the development of an enhanced TFV prodrug enema to take advantage of common enema use associated with anal sex and the proven efficacy of TFV.

Antibody Responses in Aging SIV Infected Monkeys |National Institutes of Health (NIAID), Subaward through University of Miami School of Medicine, Project PI(s):  Dr. Savita Pahwa, University of Miami & Dr. Francois Villinger, UL Lafayette

When aging is complicated by HIV infection, affected individuals experience increased risk for infections, increased basal levels of inflammation associated with decreased immunity and responses to vaccines such as those against influenza and bacterial pneumonia. To probe the reasons for these defects and explore measures to overcome them, this project aims to study vaccine responses in blood and tissue of aging vs young monkeys infected with the monkey AIDS virus (SIV) while treated with antiretroviral therapy, in an effort to understand the impact of both age and controlled lentivirus infection on the kinetics, quality and magnitude of immune responses to vaccination.

Pre-clinical Evaluation of MAB Microbicide Products in Nonhuman Primates | National Institutes of Health (NIAID)  Subaward through Boston University Medical Campus Project PI(s): Dr. Deborah Anderson, Boston University & Dr. Francois Villinger, UL Lafayette

The project aims to evaluate safety and efficacy of the development monoclonal antibody based microbicides against HIV and HSV in the monkey model, using Mabs produced at low costs in recombinant tobacco plants.  Specifically, one microbicide, MB66 (produced by Leaf Bio Inc., the commercial arm of MAPP Biopharmaceuticals), evaluated in preclinical test through this project, has advanced to a phase I clinical trial. The project compares the topical delivery of Mabs directed against HIV and HSV via gel, biofilms and intravaginal rings.

Rhesus MacaqueCONTACT
Dr. Francois Villinger, Director
New Iberia Research Center
4401 W. Admiral Doyle Drive
New Iberia, LA 70560