The Hutchinson Center’s Dr. Catherine Blish is the recipient of an Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy Young Investigator Award from the American Society for Microbiology for her work elucidating the role of neutralizing antibodies in HIV transmission.
Sponsored by Merck, this award recognizes an early career scientist for research excellence in microbiology and infectious diseases. Blish, of the Human Biology Division, was one of five scientists honored globally.
Blish first characterized a panel of early HIV envelope variants that were transmitted heterosexually in Africa during her postdoctoral work in the Overbaugh Lab. These variants now form the basis of a panel of standard reagents for evaluating neutralizing potential of plasma samples.
She has continued this work by evaluating immune correlates of HIV reinfection and coinfection. She demonstrated that even individuals with relatively broad neutralizing antibody responses could succumb to superinfection, or reinfection, with a second strain of HIV. This showed that preventing HIV infection by vaccination would likely require broader and more potent neutralizing antibody responses than those found in chronically HIV-infected individuals.
Blish, who is also an acting instructor in medicine at the University of Washington, is now extending this work to evaluate whether other aspects of the immune response correlate with protection from HIV reinfection.
The winners received a cash prize of $2,500 to support travel to the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Boston, Sept. 12-15, for the award presentation. ASM is the world’s oldest and largest life science organization, with more than 40,000 members worldwide.
[Adapted from an ASM news release]