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  • Pfizer Young Investigator Award in Vaccine Development

    Current Award Winner

    ThomasNortonThomas D. Norton, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, is this year’s recipient of the Pfizer Young Investigator Award in Vaccine Development. The award provides funding for research in vaccine development, either through clinical or laboratory investigation, to a candidate who demonstrates a commitment to a career in vaccinology.

    Dr. Norton received his MD in 2006 from Georgetown University School of Medicine and completed his residency training in internal medicine at Georgetown University Hospital. He then became the clinic physician at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases HIV clinic of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he treated HIV-infected patients enrolled in clinical trials. Through his involvement with clinical research, he developed an interest in the molecular biology and immunology of HIV. He then did a fellowship in infectious diseases at the NYU School of Medicine during which he joined the laboratory of Dr. Nathaniel Landau and was recently awarded an NIH K08 KA120898A grant to pursue his studies.

    Dr. Norton’s research is directed at developing a therapeutic vaccine for HIV. Dendritic cell vaccines are under development as immunotherapies for cancer, autoimmune diseases, and chronic infections. Dendritic cells are antigen presenting cells that link innate and adaptive immunity. Dr. Norton has developed lentiviral vectors that express HIV-1 antigens in dendritic cells and cause their maturation. The vectors are engineered to package a lentiviral protein that greatly enhances their ability to infect dendritic cells, providing a means to achieve long-term expression of the encoded proteins. He has found that dendritic cells treated with the vectors induce the expansion of HIV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). Such cells are specialized to kill HIV-1-infected cells and may control virus replication in patients.

    Dr. Norton has proposed to develop a dendritic cell vaccine that stimulates T cell responses to the virus in patients on antiretroviral drugs, thereby stimulating responses that have waned during treatment with antiretroviral drugs. The vaccine will, in addition, induce the activation of latent provirus expression, causing the virus to be detected by the cellular immune system. Such a two-pronged approach may reduce the size of the latent reservoir and trigger the immune response to suppress virus replication, allowing patients to stop taking medications. Dr. Norton will develop the approach in vitro and then test it in vivo using a novel mouse model.

    Past Pfizer Young Investigator Award Winners

    2014 Scott A. Smith, MD, PhD
    2013     Adam S. Lauring, MD, PhD 
    2011 David K. Hong, MD
    2010 Wendy W. Yeh, MD
    2009 Mark Daniel Hicar, MD, PhD 
    2008 Elizabeth Miller, MD
    2007 James P. McGettigan, PhD 

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