2020 NMRS Virtual Conference Keynote Address
Speaker: Dr. Bette Korber
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Our Immune System, Vaccines, and Vaccine Strategies for AIDS and COVID-19
Constantly vigilant, our immune system recognizes and controls infections to protect us from disease. Furthermore, we have a capacity for immunological memory, which enables our immune system to “remember” a pathogen we have encountered in the past, and to make a more rapid and vigorous defensive response should we encounter that same disease again. Vaccines tap into this natural capacity for immunological memory. I’ll briefly review our ongoing work at Los Alamos National Laboratory to contribute to global vaccine efforts for HIV-1 and COVID-19. The rapid evolution and extraordinary diversity of HIV provides particular challenges for developing an AIDS vaccine, and our work focuses on strategies to contend with that diversity. By contrast, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has evolved very slowly during the pandemic, although even this limited diversity can be important. We are tracking emerging viral diversity to help design appropriate reagents to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics currently under development will remain relevant over the coming year. Using our tracking tools, last April we identified a SARS-CoV-2 variant that appeared to be more transmissible than the original form. This viral variant was subsequently shown to be more infectious experimentally, and has now become the globally dominant form of the virus.