What is special about pandemic HIV-1? How capsid cofactor interactions regulate DNA synthesis, innate immune detection and pandemic potential


  • Prof Gregory Towers

    University College London

  • Dr David Jacques

    University of New South Wales

  • Dr Leo James

    Medical Research Council

  • Prof David Selwood

    University College London

  • Prof Till Boecking

    University of New South Wales

Project summary

There are 12 different types of HIV but just one has caused almost all 87 million infections worldwide. We aim to find out what is special about this common variant. 

We will focus on the viral capsid, the core of the virus that cloaks HIV from detection by the infected cell’s immune system. Cloaking requires recruitment of host proteins, called cofactors, that attach to the outside of the capsid. We will find out what cofactors are doing to the virus and how this differs between common and rare HIV. Our interdisciplinary approach combines structural biology, infection experiments and examination of single viruses using microscopes. Ideas developed in one system can be tested in another which will help us understand how HIV works and how the common virus differs. 

We will use this knowledge to develop drugs that uncloak the virus and empower our natural immune response. This will be a completely new therapeutic approach to HIV infection.