Montreal Dr. Jonathan Richard awarded $150,000 for HIV research
Dr. Jonathan Richard at the University of Montreal, Centre de Recherche du CHUM, will receive an award of $150 000 over two years to pursue HIV research: The Mathilde Krim Fellowship Grant in Basic Biomedical Research. Dr. Jonathan Richard is one of three recipients to receive the grant from amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.
Dr. Jonathan Richard will work in his mentor’s lab, Dr. Andrés Finzi, a Krim Fellow, who Dr. Richard met a few years ago when first entering into his PhD studies. “We are working in a biosecurity lab level 3 because we are working with HIV and need more protection,” he says.
Dr.Jonathan Richard first began working with the HIV virus during an internship in his undergrad at University of Sherbrooke. “I really like studying viruses in general. I was already working on HIV and the natural killer (NK) cell, so I decided to do my PhD on that in Montreal,” he says. When they met, Dr. Finzi was finishing his own PhD. “I liked what he was doing, so I came here for my post-doctorate,” he says. “We’ve published many papers together. He’s helped me to establish myself.”
Proving the hypothesis
Dr. Richard has selected two host proteins that are present on the surface of virally infected cells. These proteins enhance the killer mechanisms that natural killer cells recognize and use to destroy infected cells. “I am interested to better understand how these immune cells recognize the infected cells, and how we can improve it in order to help the immune system,” he says. “We are isolating the natural killer cell from the patients who are infected with HIV; from patients who are not infected; and from patients who are infected, but are able to control the infection.”
The difficulty is that the HIV virus has evolved to remove the host proteins, therefore protecting the infected cells from being killed by the natural killer. Over the next two years, he hopes to develop an approach that prevents the virus from removing the host proteins, even boosting the proteins, that the natural killer can recognize on infected cells. “It’s an idea that I have,” Dr. Richard says. “The goal is to validate my hypothesis.” If effective, these proteins can be implemented into a strategy to kill virally infected cells.
While there won’t be results for a long time, his idea is promising. With the help of Dr. Finzi, Dr. Richard hopes to find a cure. “He is providing me with the equipment, but the intellectual help and feedback as well.”
Dr. Richard clarifies that he did not identify these host proteins, but selected them to study and apply them in a new way to the HIV virus.
About amfAR and the Krim Fellowship
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is a non-profit organization dedicated to support, treatment, and research to find a cure for HIV/AIDS. The Krim Fellowship is a highly prestigious award named after amfAR Founding Chairman, Dr. Mathilde Krim. This grant will allow Dr. Richard to study his hypothesis with the goal of helping those inflicted with the virus.
By: Jill Clark – mtltimes.ca