Afam Okoye

Afam Okoye

Afam Okoye, Ph.D.
Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute, Oregon Health & Science University

Title: "Role of Natural Killer cells in Antibody Mediated Protection
Following SHIV Challenge"

Description: Broadly neutralizing antibodies (Abs) are the "holy grail" of HIV/AIDS vaccine development, based on the concept that such Abs would bind directly to infectious viral particles, preventing their entry into susceptible target cells. However, recent work suggests that Ab-mediated effector function might involve more than simple neutralization. The function of these Abs in mediating anti-HIV activity may might rely on or be facilitated by Fc-‐receptor-bearing cells that mediate Ab-dependent, cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). We recently developed a macaque model devoid of natural killer (NK) cells by administering anti-IL-15 mAbs in vivo. Using this model, we will investigate the role of NK cells in the protection mediated by the passive transfer of broadly neutralizing human HIV Abs against a mucosal SHIV infection.

Mentors: My mentors are Louis Picker and Otto Yang. Dr. Picker is an immunopathologist and well-known expert on human and non-human primate T cell biology, HIV/SIV pathogenesis and AIDS vaccine development. Dr. Picker was my post-doctoral training mentor and has been very supportive in the development of my research career. Dr. Yang is a physician-scientist and a professor of medicine at the School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles. He is an active clinician in the Division of Infectious Diseases and has a longstanding interest in investigating the role of CD8+ T lymphocytes in the pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection.