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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship
Bingjie Wang - Biology (Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental), Public Health
My passion for the biological sciences started after taking an introductory biology course my freshman year of high school. What grabbed my attention then—and is still riveting to me now—is the elegance of cellular systems in seemingly simplistic microscopic organisms. I carried this fascination with me to UW and immersed myself in biological research. Yet what was inescapable was the realization of the complex interplay of biology, politics, and socioeconomic factors that resulted in a disproportionate burden of disease on those living in the margins of society. This acknowledgement catalyzed a critical reflection of my intentions. I became interested in how the human body utilizes internal factors to fight diseases that affect those in the margins of society.
Mentors: Julie Overbaugh, Microbiology; Leslie Goo, Global Health
Project Title: Investigating Epitopes of Viral Sensitivity to Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies in HIV-1
Abstract: Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, nearly 30 million people have died of HIV-related causes. Developing a vaccine for HIV-1 will greatly reduce the incidence rate of infection and eventually eliminate the disease from the population. Immunization studies in nonhuman primate models have provided proof of concept for neutralizing antibodies to protect against initial infection if they were elicited by vaccination and were thus present at the time of virus exposure. The key challenge in designing effective neutralizing antibody-based vaccines is to elicit neutralizing antibodies that are broad and potent in order to recognize and effectively counteract diverse circulating HIV-1 strains. PGT128- is a HIV-1 monoclonal antibody that has been isolated and identified as having a broad neutralizing activity that would be desirable for a vaccine to elicit. My project looks to identify and map regions of the viral envelope important for recognition by PGT128 in hopes of understanding how to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies like PGT128. My project also looks to determine if the regions that confer sensitivity to PGT128 are also responsible for escape from autologous antibodies. Our lab found that longitudinal viruses isolated from a HIV-1 infected patient, QA255, display increasing sensitivity to PGT128 across 560 days post infection. Using overlap PCR, we will create chimeras of the HIV env gene by exchanging different portions of the DNA from different time points. We will then test these chimeras in neutralization assays to determine the neutralization profiles against PGT128 and autologous antibodies. By creating a series of chimeras we can pinpoint to specific sequences on the envelope gene that confer sensitivity to PGT128. Preliminary data show amino acids in the V1-C3 region of HIV env to contain epitopes of sensitivity to PGT128. Further steps include fine-mapping this region and testing these chimeras against autologous antibodies.