Interdisciplinary Research Training Program in AIDS

Duke's Interdisciplinary Research Training Program in AIDS (IRTPA) offers an opportunity for fellows to train for a career in the growing field of AIDS research.

In response to the magnitude and course of the AIDS epidemic, the Duke Division of Infectious Diseases successfully competed for an interdisciplinary research-training program to recruit and train promising young investigators in the field of AIDS research. Support for the program was awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The NIAID selected Duke University as a site for the training program because of the broad range of scientific expertise of investigators assembled here, their quality of work and prominence at the forefront of AIDS research, and their collaborative activities in both clinical and basic science arenas. These attributes provide excellent training opportunities for postdoctoral fellows who are interested in developing a career in AIDS research.

Advances in the Understanding of AIDS

Duke researchers have made many advances in the understanding of the AIDS virus and are actively seeking ways to stop its spread and treat those affected by it.

Advances in the past five years include:

  • The development of an HIV peptide vaccine candidate that uses defined immuno-dominant epitopes presented in the context of HLA-antigens to stimulate neutralizing humoral antibodies and cytotoxic T lymphocytes. This vaccine candidate has been tested in HIV-infected volunteers and found to be safe and has undergone limited testing in uninfected volunteers, matched and unmatched for HLA B-7, with promising results.
  • Further studies, by investigators in the Central Immunology Laboratory for the AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Group (AVEG) located at Duke, of the immune response to vaccine candidates led to the discovery that cross-clade stimulated CTLs lysed primary isolates and demonstrated the inability of some envelope vaccine candidates to neutralize primary isolates.
  • The discovery of two unique domains of the gp41 with anti-viral activity that are now about to enter clinical trials.
  • Basic studies in immune reconstitution through the supplementation of HAART with thymic tissue or stem cell transplantation demonstrated immune reconstitution as measured by the T-cell receptor excised circle (TREC).
  • The conceptualization and implementation of studies to evaluate the effects of cytoreductive therapy on the eradication of the latently infected resting memory CD4+ T-cells.

Research Opportunities

The training program is coordinated by Dr. Nathan Thielman and Dr. Georgia Tomaras, and draws on resources at both Duke and the Durham VA Medical Center. A principal resource is the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), funded by NIAID and directed by Kent Weinhold, PhD, and John Bartlett, MD. It assembles the talents of over 60 independent investigators within thirteen academic departments.

The range of opportunities for trainees is wide. Research programs in the basic sciences include:

  • HIV vaccine development
  • HIV pathogenesis
  • Immune reconstitution
  • Pathogenesis of cryptococcus neoformans 

 Research programs in translational or clinical research include:

  • Acute HIV disease
  • Elimination of HIV reservoirs
  • Enhancement of HIV-specific cellular immunity
  • Mycobacterial prevention and control
  • VA-based AIDS research
  • Clinical trials and epidemiology

Application Process

To apply to this program or for more information, contact Nathan Thielman, MD MPH, at 919-668-7174 or e-mail