Infectious Diseases

The impact of infectious disease on human health is immense. Historically, antimicrobial drugs and vaccines have transformed this medicine in this field and continue to do so. However, multiple challenges remain. First, some infectious disease are or have become recalcitrant to the traditional antimicrobial strategies (e.g. HIV or resistant bacterial infections). Second, novel disease-causing agents emerge quickly and provide little time for the development of novel drugs or vaccines (e.g. Ebola or Flu). Gene transfer modalities have been shown to have great potential in the fight against infectious disease and several strategies have been explored in the lab, and in certain cases in clinical studies.

One strategy that has moved along in development the furthest is the use of active genetic vaccination i.e. the gene transfer of a construct that expresses an antigen or set of antigens against which one hopes to elicit a protective immunological response e.g. capsid and coat proteins of HIV. This approach is in fact similar to more traditional vaccines that deliver a protein antigen, however may be more effective since expressing antigen de novo may lead to broader and more potent immunity.

Other strategies bring in a genetic cargo that can render the target cell or the host resistant to an infection such as specific silencing of genes, interference within infectious life cycles, or the editing of the genomes of pathogens. Certain of those approaches aim at providing a secreted factor that confers a level of protection or heightened immunity beyond the cell that was targeted by gene transfer such as in the expression of broadly neutralizing antibodies against Flu or HIV from the muscle to achieve systemic protection referred to as vectorized prophylaxis.

22nd Annual Meeting
April 29 – May 2 | Washington D.C.