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Early Career Investigator Recognition

August 2014


Filippos Porichis, Ph.D.

Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard
Nominated by Dr. Bruce Walker

Dr. Filippos Porichis is the Director of International Programs at the Ragon Institute and serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the MGH Center for Global Health. He is an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Assistant in Immunology at Massachusetts General Hospital. He received his PhD from the University of Crete and the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in Crete and subsequently joined the Ragon Institute for his Post-Doctoral training under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Kaufmann.

Dr. Porichis’s research focus is on T cell responses in HIV infection, with the goal of understanding the etiology of T cell dysfunction and the identification of novel ways of manipulating immunoregulatory pathways to enhance immunity to HIV. Over the past 5 years, he has investigated the inhibitory impact of regulatory pathways like PD-1 and IL-10 and has shown that modulation of these inhibitory pathways can restore effective HIV-specific CD4 and CD8 T cell functionality. Dr. Porichis is interested in the development of novel techniques that will enable greater functional characterization of effective immune responses. He participated in the development of next-generation fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) assays in collaboration with Affymatrix, which allow for the sensitive detection of RNA molecules by flow cytometry. He is also actively involved in the creation of panels forCyTOF (mass cytometry) for the characterization of T cell responses in HIV infection. His current projects include the investigation of the fine structure and regulation of HIV-specific CD4 T cell responses, including follicular T helper cells, that is associated with enhanced CD4 help to B cells for the development of neutralizing antibodies.


March 2014


Zaza Ndhlovu, Ph.D.

Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard
Nominated by Dr. Bruce Walker

Dr. Zaza Ndhlovu's studies seek to understand the mechanism by which rare people who are able to control viral replication in the absence of therapy (elite controllers) achieve long-term asymp­tomatic infection. Dr. Ndhlovu and his colleagues have made significant discoveries about key features of HIV-specific killer T lymphocyte subsets that are able to inhibit viral replication and drive immune escape in elite controllers; characterizing these T cell subsets is crucial to the development of T cell based vaccines for HIV and other infectious agents. In addition to contributing vitally to vaccine science, he also conducts scientific reading and grant writing workshops for African scientists at various African Universities.

Dr. Ndhlovu is an Instructor at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, Assistant in Immunology at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Honorary Faculty member at the University of KwaZulu Natal HIV Pathogenesis Programme. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology from Johns Hopkins University and received his Post-Doctoral training from the Ragon Institute in the laboratory of Dr Bruce Walker. He has recently set up his lab at the University of KwaZulu Natal's Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, HIV Pathogenesis Programme.

Currently, as part of the Walker CAVD, Dr Ndhlovu leads the collection and processing of longitudinal samples from individuals with acute HIV-1 infection in Durban South Africa. He uses these samples to investigate the dynamics of cellular immune responses in acute HIV infection and to define the ontogeny of HIV-specific CD4+ T cell responses and their relationship to the establishment of bNAbs.


February 2014


Marzena Pazgier, Ph.D.

University of Maryland School of Medicine, US
Nominated by Dr. George Lewis

Dr. Marzena Pazgier is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Human Virology and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She obtained her doctoral degree in Technical Chemistry of Sciences at the Technical University of Lodz, Poland, in 2001. In 2002 she joined the Macromolecular Crystallography Laboratory at NCI-Frederick, NIH, as postdoctoral fellow to study structures and function proteins engaged in early innate immune responses, such as defensins. At the Institute of Human Virology Dr. Pazgier continued studies on defensins, but also expanded her research to explore role of Fc-mediated effector functions such as antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) in preventing or modulating HIV-1 infection. Her research program combines structural biology by X-Ray crystallography and contemporary biophysical and protein engineering techniques.

Currently Dr. Pazgier is the Project Leader within the Lewis CAVD Consortium where she is responsible for definition of molecular basis/mechanisms governing the Fc-mediated effector functions to HIV-1 Env epitopes shown to be the major targets for non-neutralizing responses in human. Her recent effort resulted in first atomic level description by crystallography of epitopes in the C1 region of gp120 (A32-like epitopes) that are implicated in multiple studies, including the recent RV144 vaccine trial, as a target of potentially protective antibodies. In addition, by studying molecular details of epitope recognition and immune complex formation of two A32-like antibodies capable of ADCC of variable potencies, Dr. Pazgier was able to provide the structural basis for the differences in ADCC responses to these epitopes (and any ADCC epitopes in general). She found that an antibody orientation on bound antigen and a capacity to form multivalent antigen-antibody complexes on target cells were key determinants for ADCC potency, with the latter process having the greater impact. These data point toward a dominant role of precise epitope targeting and the mode of antibody attachment in ADCC responses. This is the first such connection described at the atomic level for mechanisms governing ADCC responses. Further, this data provides explanation for discordance between epitope-specific binding assays and ADCC as correlates of reduced infection risk in the RV144 vaccine trial.



2016 Early Career Investigators

To view the honorees that occured in 2016, click the following link: 2016 Early Career Investigators

2015 Early Career Investigators

To view the honorees that occured in 2015, click the following link: 2015 Early Career Investigators

2014 Early Career Investigators

To view the honorees that occured in 2014, click the following link: 2014 Early Career Investigators

2013 Early Career Investigators

To view the honorees that occured in 2013, click the following link: 2013 Early Career Investigators

2012 Early Career Investigators

To view the honorees that occured in 2012, click the following link: 2012 Early Career Investigators

2011 Early Career Investigators

To view the honorees that occured in 2011, click the following link: 2011 Early Career Investigators

2010 Early Career Investigators

To view the honorees that occured in 2010, click the following link: 2010 Early Career Investigators

2009 Early Career Investigators

To view the honorees that occured in 2009, click the following link: 2009 Early Career Investigators

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