Baltimore Sun Profiles HIV Researcher Pauza
The Baltimore Sun on Sunday profiled HIV researcher David Pauza of the University of Maryland's Institute of Human Virology. Pauza and colleagues are testing an HIV vaccine candidate that could either "halt the spread" of the virus or "easily be another setback" to developing a vaccine, according to the Sun. "In the vaccine game, you have to be pretty naive about the history of vaccine research, naive to think you're going to walk into a lab and have a Eureka moment," Pauza said, adding, "It's putting one foot in front of the other. I understand that this could be a total and enormous failure, but we also understand the process. You wouldn't do it unless you thought the goal was enormously important."
Pauza, who has been at the institute for seven years, has been recognized for his work in preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission in developing countries and for his efforts to develop an HIV vaccine, the Sun reports. Pauza's current HIV vaccine research is supported by a $15 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
According to Pauza, HIV is the "perfect mousetrap" because the virus attacks the immune system, killing cells that should be fighting the infection. In addition, because HIV often is transmitted through sexual contact, an HIV vaccine needs to engage each individual's immune system against possible attack, the Sun reports.
According to the Sun, the vaccine candidate on which Pauza is working focuses on "triggering an antibody response using the most stable part" of the virus. The vaccine candidate focuses on a sequence of HIV that appears only in the "instant it enters a healthy cell," the Sun reports. "We think this virus is built to defy an immune response if you let it get established first in the body," Pauza said. The vaccine is being tested on animals, the Sun reports. Pauza was recruited to the institute in part because of his earlier work involving monkeys, IHV head Robert Gallo said.
HIV vaccine development is "hard," Pauza said, adding that it has "pushed the brightest people in this field to the limit. ... It's not for lack of trying, for lack of hard work. It's just a hard thing to do" (Desmon, Baltimore Sun, 11/18).