Luis Giavedoni, Ph.D.

Professor, Program Co-lead | Host Pathogen Interaction, Southwest National Primate Research Center

Research Focus

Dr. Giavedoni focuses his research on viral infections and the development of vaccines and therapies. He is particularly interested in understanding the immune responses to retroviral infections (e.g. HIV) in animal models. His lab works on cytokines, which are molecules that mediate communication between the immune system and the whole organism. His group has been developing technology for the identification of cytokines in nonhuman primates and also studies the potential use of cytokines.

  • AIDS vaccine development using the rhesus macaque/simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) model
  • AIDS cure using CRISPR/Cas system and nanoparticle technology

Dr. Giavedoni is the leader of the Immunology Core Laboratory at SNPRC. He contributes more than 25 years of expertise in virology and more than 20 years of experience working with nonhuman primates; his scientific contributions led to an increase in the safety of vaccines.

Laboratory Team

Photo by: Josh Huskin

Pictured from left to right: Neda Wright, visiting Ph.D. student; Dr. Vida Hodara, Staff Scientist; Laura Parodi, Research Technician IV; Dr. Luis Giavedoni; Lisa Smith, Ph.D Student; Veronica Perko-Obregon, Ph.D. student; Dominic Merced, visiting Ph.D. student; Jessica Callery, Research Associate

In The Lab

Non-human primates (NHP) present the most translational animal model available, due to their genetic and physiological similarities with humans. My laboratory has developed techniques for the identification of NHP cytokines using the Luminex technology, for the measurement of activation/proliferation markers and for the identification and isolation of cell subsets by flow cytometry. The resulting new methodologies have been made available to the entire scientific community.

More recently, I have been involved in work that utilizes select agents, and I am receiving training for performing future work in the ABSL-3 and ABSL-4 environments.

AIDS vaccine development in our lab is based on the rhesus macaque/simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) model. Using this model in the field of AIDS pathogenesis, my laboratory was one of the first to identify the active role of NK cells during the acute phase of infection, and to demonstrate the utility of a low-stress tether system for frequent blood collection from unsedated macaques.

One of our collaborations is on the application of nanoparticle technology to deliver SIV genetic material to mucosal surfaces of macaques. This vaccination primed the immune system so that animals reacted with stronger immune responses when boosted with a second vaccine of a viral vector expressing the same genetic material. When exposed to an infectious SIV, half of the macaques resisted infection, an encouraging finding currently repeated in a larger and more controlled study.

A different AIDS-related project in our lab also involves nanoparticle technology, but here the particles carry small nucleic acids designed to bind and inactivate the viral genome within infected cells. We have identified four different molecules that can inhibit SIV replication and would reduce the chances for viral escape. We also identified five sets of guiding RNAs in the CRISPR/ Cas system that can completely eliminate production of infectious virus.

Our work towards the creation of novel vaccines is based on chimeric proteins that can simultaneously induce and stimulate an immune response. These chimeric proteins are composed of one of the SIV glycoproteins which is then fused to a protein used by immune system cells to increase antibody production. Several of these chimeric proteins have been shown to have the capacity to stimulate macaque cells.

In collaboration with scientists in the Department of Genetics at Texas Biomed, our lab has been involved in identifying mechanisms that allow certain monkey species to resist natural infection with SIV; understanding these mechanisms may lead to new therapeutics treatments for HIV-infected individuals.

Main Technologies And Methods Used

  • Nanoparticle technology
  • Identification of cytokines with Luminex technology
  • Measurement of activation/proliferation markers
  • Flow cytometry