Translating natural antiviral immunity into novel antiviral therapies



Our lab employs a translational systems approach to investigate viral evolution, pathogenesis and persistence, with the goal of developing novel viral eradication strategies.  We leverage the extensive biobank at Vitalant Research Institute (VRI) and invaluable collaborations with HIV/AIDS cohorts at UCSF to study the host-virus interface in vivo.  We develop and implement unbiased approaches to identify key host immune factors that can be exploited as pharmacological targets and viral disease biomarkers.  Our work thus far has elucidated the effects of anatomic compartmentalization on HIV evolution, the role of cell-intrinsic immunity in the antiviral potency of interferon, and the regulation of HIV transcription during suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Our current research is focused on three main areas:


Technical Capabilities and Contributions

We have developed a broad range of technical capacities in our lab to pursue our research objectives.  These tools include multiple single-cell approaches: RNA sequencing to measure gene expression, targeted DNA sequencing to examine host genetic variation, and ATAC-seq (Assay for Transposase-Accessible Chromatin using sequencing) to map the chromatin and gene regulatory landscape in individual immune cells.  In addition, we implement NanoString hybridization-based transcriptomics and proteomics, recombinant DNA technology including CRISPR vector design, and cutting-edge bioinformatic methods to process next-generation sequencing data.  Although our team is primarily focused on HIV cure research, our molecular, immunologic, and gene editing techniques are broadly applicable to infectious diseases, cancer immunotherapy, and regenerative medicine, as reflected in our collaborations within and beyond UCSF.


Research Funding

We are grateful for support from the NIH (NIAID, NIGMS, NIMH, NIDCR) and amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.


Relevant Sites

Vitalant Research Institute

UCSF-Gladstone Center for AIDS Research (CFAR)

UCSF AIDS Research Institute (ARI)

amfAR Institute for HIV Cure Research

@PillaiLab on Twitter