27 September 2022 Volume :10 Issue :44

PhD Study Identifies Antibodies for Potential HIV-1 Prevention and Cure Strategies

PhD Study Identifies Antibodies for Potential HIV-1 Prevention and Cure Strategies
PhD graduate, Dr Tawanda Mandizvo celebrates his graduation with his brother Takudwa.

A study exploring broadly neutralising antibodies (bNAbs) which have potential clinical utility in HIV-1 prevention and cure strategies earned Dr Tawanda Mandizvo a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Medicine (Virology).

The study identified antibodies most likely to be effective for clinical use in an HIV-1 subtype C prevalent setting and went further to describe viral mutational patterns associated with neutralisation escape from these antibodies.

He investigated 15 bNAbs with diverse biophysical properties that target six distinct epitopes of the HIV-1 Env glycoprotein for their ability to block viruses that initiate infection and viruses circulating in plasma at chronic infection before antiretroviral treatment (ART) or were archived in the reservoir during ART in 14 HIV-1 subtype C-infected individuals in Durban in a high HIV burden setting.

Mandizvo said: ‘Given the years it took and the tenacity and endurance needed, I am humbled by this milestone achievement. I am grateful for the support I received from my colleagues at the Africa Health Research Institute and the HIV Pathogenesis Programme in particular as well as my research advisors Professor Thumbi Ndung’u and Dr Kamini Gounder.

‘I have always wanted my projects to address the needs of communities and geographical areas in southern Africa and Africa as a whole. In addition, I dreamed of being part of a solution to help control the devastating HIV and TB co-epidemic in Africa and beyond - studying virology was thus a logical decision.’

Mandizvo is currently working in the field of medical communications where he is enjoying his current role as a scientific partner in different therapeutic areas.

‘I had an incredible 12-year journey at UKZN; I would not edit out any of my experiences,’ he said.

‘My highlight was getting the opportunity to work in world-class laboratories at the Africa Health Research Institute and having access to mentorship by top scientists through the Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence Fellowship.’

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied

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