Ragon Team Receives Grant to Develop Engineered Cytotoxic T-Cells

Ragon Team Receives Grant to Develop Engineered Cytotoxic T-Cells

Apr 10

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The Ragon Institute fosters an environment that breaks down silos between different fields of science. This has allowed Dr. Brad Jones, Ragon Institute post-doctoral fellow, to move forwards with an idea that takes an innovative technology developed in the laboratory of Dr. Darrell Irvine for the treatment of cancer, and to combine it with the resources for studying HIV-specific cytolytic T-cells in the laboratory of Dr. Bruce Walker, with the hope of generating a powerful approach for eradicating HIV reservoirs and curing infection.


Although antiretroviral therapy has dramatically improved the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS a cure is needed to fully restore health and to remove the burden – financial and otherwise – of lifelong daily medication. Cytotoxic T-cells represent a powerful arm of the human immune system that act by recognizing and killing virus infected cells. In patients who are on therapy, HIV avoids being eradicated by these cells by entering into a ‘latent state’ where it hides from the immune system, only to later re-establish a spreading infection.


The team is approaching this challenge by equipping cytotoxic T-cells with nanoparticle “backpacks” containing latency-reversing drugs that force HIV out of hiding, exposing virus to killing by these same cells. It is hoped that this will allow the immune system to purge all reservoirs of HIV from the body, thus curing infection.


With the receipt of a new R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, the team will have the resources to fully explore this novel idea.


“I feel extremely fortunate to be involved in this project” said Dr. Jones. “This is an idea that has really captured my imagination and my passion. There are so many unique elements that need to converge to make this into a reality, that I can’t imagine it getting off of the ground anywhere other than the Ragon Institute.”



Image (L-R): Dr. Darrell Irvine, Dr. Bruce Walker, Dr. Brad Jones