Published: Oct. 8, 2021

Oct 20, 2021 12:00 PM in Mountain Time (US and Canada)

No universal vaccines exist for infectious diseases like HIV and influenza, largely due to the high frequency with which the pathogens that cause these diseases acquire mutations in their surface proteins. Hear from Assistant Professor Kayla Sprenger as she describes our efforts to address this challenge for HIV using a variety of computational methods that include homology modeling, molecular simulations, mathematical modeling, and machine learning.

During the webinar, Dr. Sprenger will present on our efforts to understand, on a molecular level, how HIV is able to ‘escape’ from existing, best-of-class antibodies called broadly neutralizing antibodies, or bnAbs. She will share a feature of the work happening at CU Boulder to glean fundamental insight into vaccine design principles for eliciting such bnAbs using a coarse-grained mathematical model. Finally, she will showcase our efforts to develop a more realistic model of the antibody evolution process, enabling the design of real, HIV-like vaccine-candidate protein sequences with an optimized ability to elicit bnAbs.

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Kayla Sprenger is an Assistant Professor in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department and a faculty member in the new Biomedical Engineering Program at the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Sprenger received her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 2017 from the University of Washington Seattle. Her Ph.D. was focused on the development and use of molecular simulation tools to study the structure and function of biomolecules at interfaces. She completed her postdoctoral studies in 2020 at MIT in the Institute for Medical Engineering & Science, focusing on developing agent-based models of stochastic biological processes to enable vaccine design against highly mutable pathogens like HIV and influenza. Her lab at CU Boulder is now focused on multiscale computational approaches to design immunotherapeutics against a variety of infectious and neurological diseases. She is passionate about promoting the participation of women and other underrepresented minorities in STEM.

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