Tag Archive: students in focus

  1. Students in Focus – where are they now?

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    We revisit some of the early career researchers from our past Students in Focus to see where they are now and how their EAVI2020 experiences have helped them along the way.

    We continue to be very proud and celebrate the successes of the early career researchers who took part in our Continuing Education & Training in HIV vaccine development programme. Over the past year, our EAVI2020 Students in Focus series has shone a spotlight on the students to hear from them about their experience in the programme. Here, we catch up with Nathifa and Alessandra.

    Nathifa Moyo

    Read Nathifa’s original feature

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    What work did you do as part of EAVI? and what are you up to now?

    I was based at The Jenner Institute, University of Oxford for 5 years as a postdoctoral researcher in the EAVI consortium. There, I was involved in the development of a T-cell vaccine for HIV-1 using the novel T-cell based immunogens, tHIVconsvX. Newly emerging technologies were combined to maximize the potential for inducing effective and durable T-cell responses in pre-clinical and clinical models. In addition, multiple vectors for antigen delivery, such as simian (chimpanzee) adenovirus (ChAdOx1), poxvirus-modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) and new technologies like messenger RNA (mRNA), were assessed to determine if these systems offer opportunities to enhance cellular immune responses.

    I have since moved to biotech and joined the Immunology research team at Enara Bio, where my current focus is based on the development of novel T-cell based immunotherapies for cancer.

    What did you find most valuable about being part of the EAVI2020 training and development programme?

    The training and development programme provided opportunities to network and learn from other academic, industry and public health partners. It provided tremendous insight and knowledge into the process of vaccine development from bench construction to pre-clinical animal models and finally to the clinics.

    Any recent highlights to share?

    I was presented with the 2021 HIVR4P Mathieson New Investigator Award in HIV Research. This was awarded for my research and published work in Moyo et al., 2020: Tetravalent immunogen assembled from conserved regions of HIV-1 and delivered as mRNA demonstrates potent preclinical T cell immunogenicity and breath. In 2018, I was awarded with the Human Vaccine Trail Network (HVTN) Translational HIV Vaccine Early-Stage Investigator Award.


    Alessandra Gallinaro

    Read Alessandra’s original feature

    profile photo of Alessandra Gallinaro

    What work did you do as part of EAVI and what are you up to now?

    I have been part of the EAVI 2020 consortium since I was a PhD student. I worked on my PhD thesis on developing an IDLV (Integrase Defective Lentiviral Vector) based HIV vaccine using EAVI rationally designed HTI and UFO antigens. At present, as a post-doc, I am still working on improving and implementing IDLV as a vaccine platform for HIV and the novel SARS 2 coronavirus.

    What did you value most about being part of the EAVI2020 training and development programme?

    During the EAVI2020 training and development programme, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to share knowledge, expertise and data with other students and with PIs by acquiring very useful contacts and collaborations for my project. Also, writing abstracts, creating posters and presenting my work was a great opportunity to improve my skills.

    Any new publications to share with us?
    Gallinaro A, Borghi M, Pirillo MF, et al. Development and Preclinical Evaluation of an Integrase Defective Lentiviral Vector Vaccine Expressing the HIVACAT T Cell Immunogen in Mice. Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev. 2020 DOI: 10.1016/j.omtm.2020.01.013
    Gallinaro A, Pirillo MF, Aldon Y, et al. Persistent Immunogenicity of Integrase Defective Lentiviral Vectors delivering membrane tethered Native-Like HIV-1 Envelope Trimers (pre-print). Submitted to NPJ vaccines.

  2. EAVI2020 Students in Focus: Alessandra Gallinaro from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) in Italy.

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    My name is Alessandra Gallinaro and I am a Postdoc Researcher at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) in Rome, Italy.

    The road to my PhD

    Whilst studying Medical Biotechnology at “La Sapienza” University in Rome I was captivated by virology and immunology. I have been involved in the HIV field since obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree, during which I worked alongside clinicians studying drug resistance in patients being treated with HAART. After a fellowship at the Italian National AIDS Centre, in 2014 I transferred to Dr. Andrea Cara’s lab (ISS) where I am still located.

    Last year, I achieved my PhD in Experimental Medicine, in collaboration with the University “La Sapienza” in Rome. My PhD project focused on the development of an HIV-vaccine using Integrase Defective Lentiviral Vectors (IDLVs) as a delivery platform. As immunogens, we selected two of the EAVI2020 antigens to induce cellular immune response and IDLVs expressing UFOs antigens to elicit broadly neutralising antibodies (bNAbs).

    Being part of EAVI2020’s Training Programme

    In the last four years, I have been part of EAVI2020’s Education and Training programme. I attended a majority of the courses and found them very beneficial in broadening my knowledge and understanding regarding various aspects of the research in order to develop an effective vaccine against HIV: B- and T-cell immunity, rational design of vaccine candidates, use of different vaccine delivery systems, animal models.

    We were given the chance to visit the animal facilities in Paris and I thoroughly enjoyed the wet workshop in Madrid where I gained knowledge of how to characterise neutralising antibodies. It was also very fascinating to understand how industrial production of protein vaccines is made with GMP procedures at the Polymun Scientific in Vienna.

    Thanks to EAVI2020 training courses and annual meetings, I had the possibility to write abstracts, create scientific posters, and present my project’s progression. I have been given the great opportunity to improve my skills, both orally and in written communication and to share data and ideas amongst other students and PIs.

    EAVI2020 annual meetings were ideal in acquiring contacts and collaborations with the EAVI partners. Furthermore, interaction and an exchange of views with some of the most important people within the field of HIV research was very invigorating. I learned the importance of a scientific community, in which everyone collaborates making available its own expertise and resources in order to reach the same goal.

    Looking forward

    In my foreseeable future, I will continue to work within Andrea Cara’s team, striving to implement IDLV platform for UFOs antigens to further increase its immunogenicity.

    Outside the lab

    When out of my workplace, I like spending time with my family and friends and I enjoy a relaxing stroll along the promenade. I love travelling and I’m also a fan of detective series and mystery books.


  3. EAVI2020 Students in Focus: Ehsan Suleiman (Polymun Scientific, Austria)

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    Time to meet: Ehsan Suleiman

    I am an employee of Polymun Scientific and a PhD student of Biomolecular Technology of Proteins (BioToP) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria. I have been involved in the development of readily scalable approaches for the manufacturing of liposomes-based vaccines against HIV-1 for almost five years now. In a collaborative effort with scientists at the Institute of Clinical and Molecular Virology at the Universitätsklinikum Erlangen we have been able to advance a novel vaccine platform from the early stage of conceptualization to first in vivo trials.

    profile photo of Ehsan Suleiman

    Ehsan Suleiman is in his 5th year PhD focussing on Liposome-based HIV-1 vaccines.

    Being part of the European AIDS Vaccine Initiative 2020 and working on a project at the interface of academia and industry has been a unique and rewarding experience. Working in this setting has placed me between the poles of basic research, clinical research and the biopharmaceutical industry. This has given me the opportunity to experience vaccine development from these different perspectives and to develop my roles as communicator and mediator. The last years have made me recognize the complexity of HIV/AIDS and have made me internalize the fact that ending this devastating pandemic is not merely a scientific or technical challenge. It is a socio-economic, social, political and logistical challenge that requires the active inclusion/participation of affected people and the establishment of cross-functional collaborations for it to be overcome. It is a challenge that will require agents like scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, policy and decisionmakers to critically reflect on their privileges, their approaches and their responsibility to create tangible impact in order to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

    I am currently in my final year and in the process of writing up my doctoral thesis. When I am not in the lab or at the office I love to cook, politicise, socialise, work out or share quality time with my dearest and nearest. So far, I have not decided on what exactly to do next in my career. What I know for sure is that I would love to share all the lessons I have learned as a young researcher in the last years and that I would like to continue to be part of a bold, impact-generating, international consortium such as the European AIDS Vaccine Initiative 2020.