A team of researchers in Kenya, South Africa and Sweden are launching an ambitious program aiming to identify new HIV vaccine and treatment strategies. The research program based on advanced molecular biology and bioinformatics involves determining potent antibody responses towards the most commonly transmitted HIV-1 strains.

“Ultimately, we hope to pave the way to fundamentally new insights on how HIV-1 establish disease and how novel cure and vaccine strategies can be designed,” says Dr Joakim Esbjörnsson, the principal Investigator who heads Systems Virology at the Department of Laboratory Science, Lund University, Sweden.

The other institutions involved include L Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and University of Kwazulu Natal (UKZN) South Africa. The project has been awarded a 12-month, 146 000 SEK (approximately R211,500.00) grant from the Swedish Foundation for International Co-operation in Research and Higher Education.

“STINT’s support will enable us to take the first formal steps towards a close collaboration between Lund, UKZN, and KEMRI, and to launch an exciting research programme that aims to determine potent antibody responses towards the most commonly transmitted HIV-1 strains,” says Esbjörnsson.

All key researchers in the programme are affiliated to the intercontinental Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE) formed in 2015 to advance African science and scientists, and fight HIV/AIDs and TB. Dr Joakim Esbjörnsson is a SANTHE mentor.

Professor Thumbi Ndung’u – based in Durban, South Africa – is the SANTHE Programme Director, and also director of the HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP) at UKZN, and a Principal Investigator at the African Health Research Institute (AHRI).

Professor Eduard Sanders – based in Kilifi, Kenya – is a Co-recipient of the SANTHE grant, and also Professor of Tropical Medicine and Global Health at the University of Oxford, and a Principal Investigator at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme. (Contact: kim.waddilove@santheafrica.org)