The Alam laboratory’s primary research is focused on understanding the biophysical properties of antigen-antibody binding and the molecular events of early B cell activation using the HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibody (bnAb) lineage models. We are studying how HIV-1 Envelope proteins of varying affinities are sensed by B cells expressing HIV-1 bnAbs or their germline antigen receptors and initiate early signaling events for their activation. In the long-term these studies will facilitate design and pre-selection of immunogens for testing in animal models and accelerate HIV-1 vaccine development.
Current research include the following NIAID-funded projects
Antigen recognition and activation of B cell antigen receptors with the specificity of HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies. This project involves elucidating the early events on the B cell surface following antigen (Ag) engagement of the B cell antigen receptor (BCR) and to provide an assessment of the in vivo potential of an Ag to drive B cell activation. We are performing biophysical interactions analyses and using high-resolution microscopy to define the physico-chemical properties of BCR-Ag interactions that govern signaling and activation thresholds for BCR triggering and the BCR endocytic function in antigen internalization. The overall objective of these studies is to bridge the quantitative biophysical and membrane dynamics measurements of Ag-BCR interactions to ex-vivo and in-vivo B cell activation. This NIAID-funded research is a collaboration with co-investigators Professor Michael Reth (University of Freiburg, Germany) and Dr. Laurent Verkoczy (San Diego Biomedical Research Institute, CA).Immunogen Design for Induction of HIV gp41 Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies. This research project addresses the critical problem of vaccine induction of disfavored HIV-1 antibody lineages, like those that target the membrane proximal external region (MPER) of HIV Env gp41.This program combines structure and lineage-based vaccine development strategies to design immunogens that will induce bnAb lineages that are not polyreactive and therefore easier to induce. The overall objective of this program grant is to develop and test sequential immunogens that will initiate and induce HIV-1 bnAb lineages like the potent MPER bnAb DH511. Using a germline-targeting (GT) epitope scaffold design and a prime/boost strategy, we are testing induction of DH511-like bnAbs in knock-in (KI) mice models expressing the DH511 germline receptors. This P01 research program is in collaboration with Dr. William Schief (The Scripps Research Institute, CA), who leads the team that are designing germline targeting (GT)-scaffold prime and boost immunogens and Dr. Ming Tian at Harvard University who developed relevant knock-mice models for the study.