Emory Vaccine Center
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine
Yerkes National Primate Research Center
Emory Center for AIDS Research
Cynthia A. Derdeyn (b.1964) obtained her Ph.D. Degree from Georgia State University in 1994 studying the generation of defective-interfering particles by rubella virus. She began investigating HIV-1 pathogenesis as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Ronald Collman at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. In 1997, she joined Dr. Pat Bucy in the Department of Pathology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study HIV-1 latency. In 1999, she began working with Dr. Eric Hunter in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and initiated her translational research programs into the mechanisms of HIV-1 entry and heterosexual transmission. Dr. Derdeyn is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and the Emory Vaccine Center.
Dr. Derdeyn’s laboratory investigates the neutralizing antibody response that arises in early HIV-1 infection, and the molecular mechanisms that the virus employs to escape neutralization, in collaboration with scientists at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and the Rwanda-Zambia HIV Research Group. Her laboratory was among the first to isolate monoclonal antibodies from recently HIV-infected patients and characterize them using the autologous viral variants. These studies revealed that neutralizing antibodies initially recognize a single target that is unique to each infection, and that the antibody-antigen recognition mechanisms facilitate rapid viral escape. More recently, her research uncovered evidence that these early neutralization targets and viral escape pathways may set the course for the development of heterologous neutralization capability later in infection. She is currently determining the structural and genetic properties of these neutralizing antibodies and viral escape variants in collaboration with investigators at the NYU School of Medicine and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dr. Derdeyn’s group also found that neutralizing antibody activity persists in the chronic stage of HIV-1 infection despite widespread dysfunction and immune activation with the B cell compartment. Together these studies suggest that the effectiveness of this arm of the immune system may be established within the first few months of infection. In parallel, Dr. Derdeyn’s laboratory also studies the immunopathogenesis of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection in nonhuman primate models at Yerkes. Some of these studies are geared towards understanding how B cells and antibodies mediate vaccine-induced protection against an SIV viral challenge, while others focus on viral tropism and immunopathogenesis. As a whole, these studies will reveal new information about what is required to induce B cells and antibodies with a vaccine that can mediate protection against the genetically diverse variants of HIV-1.