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Eric Hunter, PhD

Professor
Emory Vaccine Center

Professor
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine

Eminent Scholar
Georgia Research Alliance

Researcher
Yerkes National Primate Research Center

Co-Director
Emory Center for AIDS Research

Phone: 404-727-8587

Email: eric.hunter2@emory.edu

Lab Web Site:

Biography

Eric Hunter, PhD, who joined Emory in 2004, has primarily centered his research on elucidating the virus-cell interactions involved in the assembly and the entry of retroviruses. Understanding how independently targeted capsid and glycoprotein molecules are transported to the assembly site(s), what cellular pathways are used and what roles cell- and virus-encoded gene products play in this process is a major focus of his research. Because the major viral components traverse distinct pathways, Dr. Hunter's laboratory has characterized the factors that influence intracellular transport and assembly of both viral capsids and viral glycoproteins. He has also examined the signals and mechanisms that operate to include the viral glycoproteins into a budding virion and that mediate fusion. More recently, this information on glycoprotein structure and function has been applied to studies of the virologic correlates of HIV transmission within an African setting. Specifically, studies are underway to distinguish structural and functional differences between the glycosylated HIV envelope proteins that permit transmission into a new host versus the majority of related HIV envelope variants in the donor that fail to lead to a transmission event. Additional studies in collaboration with investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and in Perth, Australia, have been initiated to examine how a newly transmitted virus adapts to its new host-defined immune environment so as to evade detection and destruction. The knowledge gained from characterizing unique features of the transmitted envelope proteins and the process of immune escape, will be critical for the development of an effective HIV vaccine.

Dr. Hunter completed his undergraduate studies in bacteriology at Birmingham University, England (B.Sc. with honors, 1969). His graduate work in tumor immunology was carried out at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund & Brunel University, London, England (PhD, 1972). During postdoctoral studies at the University of Southern California, he applied molecular genetics approaches to examine retrovirus replication, and he expanded on this approach when he joined UAB in 1976. While at UAB, Dr. Hunter was the founding Director of the UAB Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), leading its growth into one of the premiere AIDS research institutions in the United States.

His laboratory has been recognized internationally for its work in defining the molecular events involved in retroviral assembly and for elucidating the structure/function relationships for retroviral gene products at a molecular level. Recently, his laboratory has investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying HIV transmission among stable heterosexual couples living in Rwanda and Zambia with an aim toward developing novel vaccine approaches that might prevent this transmission event.