The correlates of protection in the RV144 phase III clinical trial were primarily antibody-mediated. The Laboratory of Vaccine Immunology, headed by Dr. Polonis, has focused for many years on functional antibodies elicited by natural infection and by vaccination, utilizing samples from multiple natural history cohorts and vaccine studies; her lab is currently performing an extensive analysis of pseudovirus neutralizing antibodies in the large RV144 follow-on trial, RV306.
The goals of the Polonis lab have been to provide virologic and serologic tools for evaluating preclinical and human clinical samples, in order to assess the role of neutralizing antibodies in protection against HIV-1 infection. The Polonis lab has also employed both cell line-based model systems, as well as primary cell types from uninfected humans, to investigate virus-antibody-host cell interactions and cross-subtype reactivities amongst the major subtypes of the HIV pandemic.
In addition, Dr. Polonis has been the project lead for development of HIV-1 envelope subunit vaccine candidates from multiple subtypes in efforts to find an Env protein that will elicit protective responses. She received a Civilian Special Acts award for her leadership in the development and evaluation of a Tanzanian subtype C Env protein from acute HIV infection. This product is in preparation for GMP production for clinical testing in humans and is currently being evaluated in a prime-boost challenge study in non-human primates, in collaboration with Dr. Diane Bolton.