Dr Julia Makinde, Research Associate, Department of Infectious Disease  

“My work seeks to understand the entire system of interconnected responses that can successfully bring infections like HIV under control.”

A colleague recently described the body’s response to infections as an orchestra in which the musicians within the instrumental ensemble understand their positions well enough to do their bit when summoned by the movement of the baton. Within the context of the immune system, I would go as far as to say that the components of the body’s response to infection must appear when summoned, with the appropriate cadence and melody for the performance to be deemed successful. In this context, it is also safe to state that a single instrument does not constitute an orchestra.

My work at Imperial seeks to understand the entire system of interconnected responses that can successfully bring infections like HIV under control. I am a postdoctoral Research Associate at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative’s Human Immunology Laboratory which is based at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Prior to joining Imperial, I completed my PhD at Cardiff University in Wales.

The Human Immunology Laboratory is part of a thriving global research network within the United States Agency for International Development funded ADVANCE (Accelerate the Development of Vaccines and New Technologies to Combat the AIDS Epidemic) program, which is committed to developing safe and effective HIV vaccines and biomedical prevention products for global use. The ADVANCE network has provided critical frameworks for the deployment of in-country COVID-19 infrastructure and plans around the world.

The laboratory is also a core lab that supports the development and testing of vaccines to tackle a range of diseases including HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other emerging infectious diseases.

I have also had the opportunity, through the Royal Society’s pairing scheme, to provide research evidence to MPs to support policy change for increased access to PrEP, a medicine taken to prevent HIV acquisition in England. I am very optimistic that the pieces will soon fall in place with respect to the discovery of a safe and effective HIV vaccine.

In my down time, I admire and create beautiful flower arrangements for friends and family.

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