Partnership Opportunities

Understanding HIV Microbiomes

Defining the links between bacterial microbiome, virome, innate and adaptive immune responses, and the roles they play in HIV susceptibility

Technology Overview

jaspan_heather_220x180Dr. Heather JaspanUnderstanding the complex interplay between the immune system, healthy and pathogenic bacteria and viruses that routinely colonize the human body (known as microbiomes), is essential for understanding the body’s ability to ward off new infections. Identifying the role of the body’s microbiomes in shaping immune responses is a key step towards understanding vaccines for pediatric populations and for assessing the potential for future infection and transmission prevention.

Through clinical research, Drs. Jaspan and Gasper study how the infant gut and adolescent genital microbiomes influence the mucosal and systemic immunity. Both the gut and vagina have distinct bacterial populations that impact overall vulnerability to new infections. Drs. Jaspan and Gasper are interested in understanding the direct causal link between the bacteriome and virome and the immune system’s capacity to fight HIV infection.

Another area of research interest to Dr. Jaspan is vaccine immunogenicity in infants, who naturally have altered immunity compared to adults.  In addition to understanding vaccine immunogenicity, Dr. Jaspan also studies the role of factors such as breastfeeding, HIV exposure, and immune cell populations such as suppressor and regulatory cells in infants to better understand alternative mechanisms by which infant immunity can be manipulated. Dr. Jaspan runs a clinical research site in Cape Town, South Africa, where much of this research is conducted.

gasper_melanie_220x180 Dr. Melanie GasperDr. Gasper is specifically interested in studying the vaginal microbiome in order to understand how it can impact inflammation and immunity, leading to altered susceptibility to HIV or other sexually transmitted infections in adolescents. Dr. Gasper’s work will continue to examine the role of the vaginal microbiota in influencing inflammation and natural resistance to infections.

The work conducted by Drs. Jaspan and Gasper is firmly rooted in the clinical setting, granting a strong appreciation for patient clinical needs and the logistics of clinical trials. Drs. Jaspan and Gasper are interested in collaborating with industry partners on projects to increase understanding of the links between the numerous biological factors that influence infant immunity and/ or HIV susceptibility, and ultimately contribute to the identification of new intervention targets.

Stage of Development

  • Pre-clinical in vitro
  • Pre-clinical in vivo
  • Clinical trial

Partnering Opportunities

  • Collaborative research and development opportunity
  • Sponsored research agreement
  • Consultation agreement
  • Clinical trial
  • Tissue sample access


  1. Gasper M, Hesseling AC, Mohar I, .… Jaspan HBBCG vaccination induces HIV target cell activation in HIV-exposed infants: a randomized, open-label trialJCI Insight. 2017; 2: e91963.
  2. Lennard K, Dabee S, Barnabas SL, …. Jaspan HBMicrobial composition predicts genital tract inflammation and persistent bacterial vaginosis in South African adolescentsInfect Immun 2017. In Press (available online)
  3. Hesseling A, Blakney A, Jones C et al. Delayed BCG immunization does not alter antibody responses to EPI vaccines in HIV-exposed and -unexposed South African infants. Vaccine. 2016;34(32):3702-3709. 
  4. Tchakoute C, Hesseling A, Kidzeru E et al. Delaying BCG vaccination until 8 weeks of age results in robust BCG-specific T-cell responses in HIV-exposed infants. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2014;211(3):338-346. 
  5. Jaspan H, Liebenberg L, Hanekom W et al. Immune activation in the female genital tract during HIV infection predicts mucosal CD4 depletion and HIV sheddingJournal of Infectious Diseases. 2011;204(10):1550-1556. 

Learn More

To learn more about partnering with Seattle Children’s Research Institute on this or other projects, email the Office of Science-Industry Partnerships