Phyllis Kanki

Mary Woodward Lasker Professor of Health Sciences

Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases

651 Huntington Avenue
FXB Building, Room 405B
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
617.432.1267

Research

My research centers on the virology, pathogenesis and molecular epidemiology of HIV in Africa. Based on long term research collaborations in Senegal for over 24 years, our work provided the initial characterization of HIV-2, demonstrated reduced virulence, transmission and progression to disease and interactions with HIV-1 subtypes from West Africa. In 2000, I created and directed the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria (APIN), with a $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This provided the collaborative foundation for the Harvard President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) providing prevention, care and HIV antiretroviral therapy in Nigeria, Botswana, and Tanzania (2004-2012). To date, in addition to the capacity building for clinical, laboratory and research capabilities, the program supported treatment for over 150,000 AIDS patients. The PEPFAR program in Nigeria has developed an extensive electronic medical record system that provides real time access to 250,000 patients on antiretroviral treatment in the country.   These databases allow us to promote better clinical care and also to answer operational research questions dealing with the efficacy of ART and prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) interventions and modulators of this response. Our operational research deals with HIV diversity and drug resistance, ART adherence and HIV co-infections including tuberculosis and hepatitis infections. Training has been a critical goal of this program and topics have included clinical ART for adults and children, principles of research ethics, laboratory methods, pharmacy, data management and analysis. We have built the capacity of over 22 laboratories in Nigerian teaching hospitals and research institutes to provide state of the art HIV diagnosis and monitoring.

My long-term research collaborations in West Africa have also incorporated training and research capacity building.  I served as the Co-PI of the Harvard School of Public Health AITRIP (1988-2013). In 2010, the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, received a NIH Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) award from the Fogarty International Center and I currently lead the Harvard component of this consortium that promotes research capacity at three partner medical schools. The MEPI programs at the Universities of Ibadan, Jos and Lagos seek to enhance research capacity for junior faculty and to increase recruitment and retention of health professionals and academic faculty.

I am a visiting faculty member at the University of Ibadan and University of Jos in Nigeria.

In response to the recent epidemics of Ebola and Zika virus, we have documented the presence of ZIKV infection in Senegalese and Nigerian fever patients over ~ 25 years, demonstrating the endemicity of this unique arbovirus in the region. We have described the longevity, specificity and cross reactivity of T cell responses to ZIKV and DENV NS3.  Ebola fusion proteins were used to characterize the T cell responses in exposed and surviving EBOV subjects. We are currently conducting an NIH funded study on the impact of Zika virus infection on pregnancy outcomes in Nigeria.

Education

D.Sc., 1985, Harvard School of Public Health
D.V.M., 1982, University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine