Medtech Meets Cleantech: Malaria Vaccine Candidate Produced from Algae

Cheap, green technique advances efforts toward malaria transmission vaccine in humans —

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine used algae as a mini-factory to produce a malaria parasite protein. The algae-produced protein, paired with an immune-boosting cocktail suitable for use in humans, generated antibodies in mice that nearly eliminated mosquito infection by the malaria parasite. The method, published Feb. 17 by Infection and Immunity, is the newest attempt to develop a vaccine that prevents transmission of the malaria parasite from host to mosquito. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Joseph VinetzStudy senior author Joseph Vinetz, MD, is professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

Read article abstract

HIV Transmission Networks Mapped to Reduce Infection Rate

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have mapped the transmission network of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in San Diego. The mapping of HIV infections, which used genetic sequencing, allowed researchers to predictively model the likelihood of new HIV transmissions and identify persons at greatest risk for transmitting the virus. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom

UC San Diego Researcher Receives $2.5 million Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Davey Smith, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the VA San Diego Health System is one of three recipients of the 2012 Avant-Garde Award for HIV/AIDS research. This prestigious award, announced today by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, is intended to stimulate high-impact research that may lead to groundbreaking opportunities for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in drug abusers. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


David M. Smith, MD, MASDavey M. Smith, MD, MAS, is a physician-scientist specializing in the study of HIV transmission. He directs the Translational Virology Core at the Center for AIDS Research and the Early Intervention Program at the Antiviral Research Center at UCSD.Dr. Smith received his internal medicine residency training, including a year as chief medical resident, and his fellowship training in infectious diseases at UCSD. He earned his Masters of Advanced Studies (MAS) degree in clinical research at UCSD as well.

More about Dr. Smith’s work:

More about the award:

In the Spotlight: Global Public Health Division’s El Cuete and Mujer Mas Segura Projects

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee on El Cuete outreachAs the XIX International AIDS Conference met in Washington, DC, this month, Science highlighted the UC San Diego Division of Global Public Health’s El Cuete project and KPBS released a video and story about another of the division’s studies, Mujer Mas Segura.

Science magazine profiled the El Cuete project in a special issue, HIV/AIDS in America, released to coincide with the International AIDS Conference. Read “My Virus Is Your Virus” in Science

In the local media, KPBS interviewed Dr. Steffanie Strathdee (pictured at left above) and Dr. Jose Luis Burgos about the Changing HIV Risks in Female Sex Workers-Injection Drug Users on the Mexico-US Border study, known as Mujer Mas Segura.  Go to video story “UC San Diego Study Aims To Reduce The Risks In The Sex Trade”

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, is Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences and Harold Simon Professor and Chief of the UC San Diego Division of Global Public Health. She directs the UC San Diego Global Health Initiative and is founding co-director of the UC Global Health Institute’s Center for Migration and Health.

Jose Luis Burgos, MD, MPH, is assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health.

Related stories from UC San Diego and the University of California:

UC San Diego Biologists Produce Potential Malarial Vaccine from Algae

Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have succeeded in engineering algae to produce potential candidates for a vaccine that would prevent transmission of the parasite that causes malaria, an achievement that could pave the way for the development of an inexpensive way to protect billions of people from one of the world’s most prevalent and debilitating diseases. Initial proof-of-principle experiments suggest that such a vaccine could prevent malaria transmission…. Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. Joseph VinetzThe research team included Dr. Joseph Vinetz, pictured at left, and Dr. Fengwu Li from the Department of Medicine.Dr. Vinetz is professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and program director of the Peruvian/Brazilian Amazon Center of Excellence in Malaria Research.

Fengwu Li is an associate project scientist in Dr. Vinetz’s laboratory.

Read the study report in PLoS One (Open access article)

Article citation: Gregory JA, Li F, Tomosada LM, Cox CJ, Topol AB, et al. (2012) Algae-Produced Pfs25 Elicits Antibodies That Inhibit Malaria Transmission. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37179. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037179

Dr. Joseph Vinetz Awarded $9.2 Million for International Malaria Project

Dr. Joseph Vinetz is principal investigator of the new 7-year, $9.2 million malaria research project described in the UCSD Newsroom story, “UC San Diego To Lead New Malaria Research Center in South America.”

Joseph M. Vinetz, M.D., is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

Read the abstract of the project.

Needle Sharing May Play a Major Role in Transmission of Syphilis

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee and coworkers in the Division of Global Public Health and the Department of Psychiatry are the authors of a new research report featured in the UCSD story, “Needle Sharing May Play a Major Role in Transmission of Syphilis.”

BusinessWeek, U.S.News & World Report, and local media including KPBS and 10News have carried the story.

Steffanie A. Strathdee, Ph.D., is Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences and Harold Simon Professor and Chief of the Division of Global Public Health; Director of the Center for Migration and Health; and Director of the Global Health Initiative at UCSD.

Other coauthors in the Division of Global Public Health are Melanie L. A. Rusch, M.Sc., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine; and postdoctoral fellow Oralia Loza, Ph.D. Dr. Loza is now Assistant Professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Scientists Discover Origin of HIV Transmission Among Male Partners

Dr. Davey Smith is lead investigator of the research described in the UCSD Newsroom story, “Scientists Discover Origin of HIV Transmission Among Male Partners.”

Davey M. Smith, MD, MAS, is Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Viral Pathogenesis Core at the UCSD Center for AIDS Research.

The news story has run in many media including ScienceDaily, Physorg.com, Bernama, CBC, New Scientist, and MedIndia.

Read the story from the UCSD Newsroom.

New 5-Year Grant Is a Boon for Major UCSD Study on HIV and the Brain

Why does HIV infection cause dementia in some patients and not in others?

With help from a new 5-year, $3.7 million federal grant, UC San Diego clinician-researcher Dr. Davey M. Smith is looking for the answer.

He and his coworkers will study HIV in a total of 1000 HIV-infected patients in Brazil, China, India, Romania, and the U.S.

In these five countries, three major subtypes of the HIV virus are found.

Dr. Davey Smith

His latest study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, will look for the causes of AIDS dementia in HIV subtypes from five countries (in red on the map above).

Dr. Smith hopes to find out which HIV subtypes, or clades, are more likely to cause neurological damage, and why the affected individuals are susceptible.

Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases. He joined the faculty in 2003 as a clinician and translational researcher.

He learned in January that the National Institute of Mental Health had decided to fund his study. The title is “A Multi-site Investigation into the Effect of HIV Clade on Neurocognitive Impairment.”

It’s the first study of its kind.

“There’s a need to compare the HIV subtypes in their genetic makeup and their effect on the brain,” Dr. Smith says. “Most of it is still an open question.”


The HIV found in the rest of the world
is very different from that
in the U.S. and Europe.


“Everything we know about the way HIV affects the brain is based on the HIV virus that’s found in the United States and Europe,” he says. “The HIV found in the rest of the world is very different.”

HIV mutates rapidly as it enters new environments, both in the world and in the human body. Not only is HIV in China different from HIV in Romania; HIV in an individual’s brain is different from the HIV in his or her blood.

“HIV is one of the most diverse organisms, if not the most diverse organism we have,” Dr. Smith says. “It’s a hundred times more diverse than influenza.”

Researchers are just beginning to understand the genetic variations of HIV and how they affect the way the virus is transmitted.

Dr. Smith has developed a way to inspect the HIV virus for its genetic signature, a pattern of mutations in the HIV gene.

In the new project, he and his team will use that technique to compare the genetic makeup of HIV in blood versus brain, in individuals with and without neurological damage, in the five countries.


Researchers will look at
the “genetic signature” of HIV
across the world.


The study is an example of translational research, which is a high priority at UC San Diego and in the Department of Medicine.

“UCSD is a great place for doing translational research, applying basic science to clinical problems,” Dr. Smith says. “There’s very strong support for it here.”

“The HIV research team,” he adds, “is a really great group of people.”

Dr. Smith joined the faculty in 2003 after training at UC San Diego in both internal medicine and basic and clinical research. After his internal medicine residency training and a term as Chief Resident, he completed a fellowship in Infectious Diseases and a Masters of Advanced Studies (M.A.S.) in Clinical Research here.

He is Medical Director of the San Diego County Early Intervention Program at the Antiviral Research Center (AVRC).

He directs two co-infection clinics at the Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS), one for HIV/Hepatitis C and one for HIV/HPV infection.

He conducts his clinical research at the AVRC and his basic science studies in his UC San Diego campus laboratory.


“UCSD is a great place
for doing translational research.”


His advisor and mentor is Dr. Douglas D. Richman, Professor of Pathology and Medicine and the Florence Seeley Riford Chair in AIDS Research.

Dr. Richman is Director of the UC San Diego Center for AIDS Research (CFAR).

Another HIV researcher whom Dr. Smith considers a mentor is Dr. Joseph K. Wong, now Associate Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UC San Francisco and a staff physician at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

As both a clinician and a translational research virologist, Dr. Smith divides his time between the laboratory and the patient clinic.

“It means a lot to me,” he says, “to be able to do both patient care and research.”

His goal, both in the laboratory and in his clinics, is to provide better care for individuals who are infected with HIV.


“It’s good to see people getting better
and going on in their lives.”


On a recent trip to Ethiopia, Dr. Smith saw HIV-infected patients who had not had access to the antiretroviral treatments we have here in the U.S. and Europe.

“Seeing them reminded me of where we were in the early 90’s here,” he said. “It was heartbreaking; HIV is so destructive. We have got to do better in getting our antiretroviral therapy out there.

“But we’re getting there,” he says. “It’s good to see people getting better and going on in their lives. It’s good to see things change.

“That perspective, I think, makes me a better researcher,” he says. “I get to see the why. Why this research is so important.”

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