In support of MHRP’s research studies, Dr. Tovanabutra and her scientific staff at the Viral Sequencing Core (VSC) employ advanced molecular biological techniques such as single genome sequencing, targeted and long read deep sequencing, and genetic engineering to study the genetics of HIV-1, SIV, HCV, Mycoplasma genitalium and SARS-CoV-2.
VSC is one of a few laboratory centers in the U.S. that perform high capacity HIV-1 sequencing. The VSC routinely amplifies and sequences HIV-1 full genomes from plasma/serum, cerebrospinal fluid and cell/tissue samples. VSC team also generates HIV-1 infectious molecular clones and HIV-1 envelope functional clones from acute/early HIV-1 infections and vaccine breakthrough infections.
HIV sequences and reagents generated by the VSC have greatly contributed to vaccine design, evaluation of vaccine efficacy and HIV-1 research studies. These products have been distributed to outside collaborators in the HIV/SIV scientific community.
In addition, the VSC has the capacity to measure cell associated viral load at lower copy numbers to support studies on viral load in cells and tissues for HIV-1 vaccine and remission research.
The VSC Laboratory is equipped to perform; ultra-clean RNA/DNA isolation; standard PCR; real-time and digital PCR; sequencing (Sanger and deep-sequencing technologies); cloning and cell culture. The VSC has 13 staff members, the laboratory director, 2 laboratory managers, 1 scientist, 1 bioinformatician and 8 research assistants.