D. Norton, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at
the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, is this year’s recipient of the
Pfizer Young Investigator Award in Vaccine Development. The award provides
funding for research in vaccine development, either through clinical or
laboratory investigation, to a candidate who demonstrates a commitment to a
career in vaccinology.
Dr. Norton received
his MD in 2006 from Georgetown University School of Medicine and completed his
residency training in internal medicine at Georgetown University Hospital. He
then became the clinic physician at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases HIV clinic of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he
treated HIV-infected patients enrolled in clinical trials. Through his involvement
with clinical research, he developed an interest in the molecular biology and
immunology of HIV. He then did a fellowship in infectious diseases at the NYU School
of Medicine during which he joined the laboratory of Dr. Nathaniel Landau and
was recently awarded an NIH K08 KA120898A grant to pursue his studies.
research is directed at developing a therapeutic vaccine for HIV. Dendritic
cell vaccines are under development as immunotherapies for cancer, autoimmune
diseases, and chronic infections. Dendritic cells are antigen presenting cells
that link innate and adaptive immunity. Dr. Norton has developed lentiviral
vectors that express HIV-1 antigens in dendritic cells and cause their
maturation. The vectors are engineered to package a lentiviral protein that
greatly enhances their ability to infect dendritic cells, providing a means to achieve
long-term expression of the encoded proteins. He has found that dendritic cells
treated with the vectors induce the expansion of HIV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes
(CTLs). Such cells are specialized to kill HIV-1-infected cells and may control
virus replication in patients.
Dr. Norton has
proposed to develop a dendritic cell vaccine that stimulates T cell responses
to the virus in patients on antiretroviral drugs, thereby stimulating responses
that have waned during treatment with antiretroviral drugs. The vaccine will,
in addition, induce the activation of latent provirus expression, causing the
virus to be detected by the cellular immune system. Such a two-pronged approach
may reduce the size of the latent reservoir and trigger the immune response to
suppress virus replication, allowing patients to stop taking medications. Dr.
Norton will develop the approach in vitro and then test it in vivo using
a novel mouse model.
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