Ragon Institute Hosts Cellular Immunity Workshop

Ragon Institute Hosts Cellular Immunity Workshop

Feb 02

On January 4th and 5th, 2018, leading researchers in the field of cellular immunology participated in an interactive workshop entitled “Prospects for designing and testing vaccines to elicit cellular immunity against HIV”, hosted by the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard.


The meeting focused on how cell-mediated immunity can be incorporated into the development of an HIV vaccine, with the ultimate goal being to define critical areas of research required to move vaccine efforts forward. There is ample evidence of CD8+T cell mediated control of infection, and emerging evidence of a potential role for NK cells, however current trends in funding tend to favor antibody-mediated immunity.


Steering Committee member Dr. Mary Carrington (Frederick National Laboratory), Dr. Stuart Shapiro (NIAID), and Drs. David Collins and Bruce Walker of the Ragon Institute organized the small workshop, involving 30-40 investigators and their trainees in a day and a half equally divided into presentations and discussions. Although over half of the invitees were able to make it, a “bomb cyclone” winter storm hit the northeast on January 4th, making travel difficult for the rest. Amid severe weather warnings and flight cancellations, the local team kept the conference going by using a web conferencing service to allow remote participation for those unable to attend in person. Despite the weather, the two days and four sessions addressing topics related to the importance of NK and T cell research encouraged lively participation and discussions both on- and offline.


In his invitation to the participants, Ragon Institute Director Dr. Bruce Walker identified the present as a pivotal time for HIV vaccine development. Although there are two major clinical efficacy trials currently underway, there are few alternatives on the horizon, making the further exploration of cellular immunity based approaches a well-timed pursuit. According to Dr. Walker, it is time to make the case for cell-mediated immunity and gather sufficient evidence to drive the approach into efficacy trials. The organizers and participants aimed to do just that, presenting findings and discussing the next steps for cellular immunity based approaches to vaccine development. The workshop served as a platform for the exchange of ideas among principal investigators, trainees, and government representatives alike, culminating in the establishment of new collaborations among attendees, and a follow-up workshop scheduled to take place in September 2018 to further pursue T cell and NK cell mediated control of HIV infection.