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James I. Mullins, Ph.D.
Our lab uses molecular, computational, and virus biology techniques to provide insights into the relationship between HIV and its human hosts in an effort to fight the AIDS pandemic. The practical benefits we derive from understanding both the dynamics of viral evolution and the host immune responses that occur during primary HIV infection and throughout the course of disease include an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the necessary features for a vaccine to provide protective immunity. Our current work in this area is devoted to identifying components of each viral protein that should be included or excluded in a vaccine through examination of the impact mutations have on viral function. Our work on focusing responses against conserved elements of HIV will be tested in initial clinical trials in humans starting in 2016. Our long-standing interest in the pathogenesis of HIV infection now centers on defining means reducing and eventually eliminating reservoirs of infection in the SIV model and HIV-infected humans. Our recent finding in collaboration with Lisa Frenkel’s lab that HIV integration has profound influence on cell proliferation and most likely cell phenotype, guides that area of investigation. The pace of AIDS research has been astounding over the past quarter century, and the advent of increasingly massive parallel technologies for acquiring experimental data, and the multidisciplinary nature of modern biomedical research, demands software solutions for the acquisition, retention and multi-parameter evaluation of clinical, laboratory and genetic data derived from pathogens such as HIV and their infected human hosts. With the goal of discovering mechanisms of disease causation and means of preventing infection and disease, such an infrastructure would significantly enhance the discovery process. To this end, we are developing a software infrastructure, termed Viroverse, that captures, integrates and assists queries of databases from the patient bedside, to the laboratory, to the bioinformaticist's computers. Along the way, we continue to develop a series of stand-alone tools and make them freely available to the research community on our website.