Professor Caroline T. Tiemessen

DST/NRF Research Chair of HIV Vaccine Translational Research
University of the Witwatersrand
Head: Cell Biology, Centre for HIV and STIs
National Institute for Communicable Diseases

Caroline Tiemessen heads the Cell Biology Research Laboratory within the Centre for HIV and STIs at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), and holds a joint appointment as Research Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 2013 she was awarded the DST/NRF Research Chair of HIV Vaccine Translational Research in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, was appointed a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), and in 2017 was awarded the University of the Witwatersrand’s Vice Chancellor Research Award. Research interests include the study of HIV vaccines and HIV cure (paediatric and adult). A focus is on natural resistance models which include maternal-infant HIV-1 transmission for studying protective immunity to HIV-1, and the study of long term nonprogressors and elite controllers to understand natural attenuation of disease progression. A more recent and major focus of research efforts is in the field of paediatric HIV cure. This encompasses studies of the viral reservoir and host biomarkers in the context of very early antiretroviral treatment of infants as part of the LEOPARD clinical trial being conducted in Johannesburg, and detailed exploration of the recent case of the HIV-infected South African child in long-term remission without antiretroviral drugs. This case offers a unique study opportunity to find clues as to what might make long-term remission possible for more individuals, and could help inform the search for the more challenging goal of a complete cure for HIV.

Added to this, detailed study of the recent case of the first living donor liver transplantation from an HIV-infected mother to her HIV-uninfected child, and other such future cases, will provide important insights into early virus-host events that will inform how to prevent or limit infection in this transplantation setting.