In 1999, Professor Philip Goulder of the University of Oxford received funding from the Elizabeth Glazier Paediatric AIDS Foundation to study the immunopathogenesis of HIV in children. In collaboration with Professor Hoosen (Jerry) Coovadia they established a small but highly productive Cellular Immunology Laboratory in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, under the direction of Professor Jerry Coovadia.

During this time, the field of cellular immunology was being transformed with the development of new methodologies to study CTL and T-helper cells. In partnership with Professor Bruce Walker from Partners AIDS Research Centre Boston, USA, the transfer of this new technology made it possible to study HIV-1 clade C virus infection. Similar studies and techniques were being undertaken and used at all three sites (Boston, Oxford and Durban), but the key difference is that the Durban site was, and is, at the heart of the epidemic.

Dr. Photini Kiepiela was the first locally appointed Director of the HIV Pathogenesis Programme of the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute, and under her leadership and despite limited facilities; the "infant" HPP unit produced three publications from the start up work undertaken. After further funding was obtained from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the laboratory was able to expand and develop. This additional funding allowed the laboratory to continue its valuable work with much better resources.

In July 2003, the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute was completed and the research lab moved into the new premises housing a state-of-the-art laboratory, a boardroom with conference facilities and new offices (180m2). Since that time HPP has grown considerably in size to 82 personnel encompassing local and visiting scientists, students, clinicians, nurses, counsellors, administration and support staff. There are now four clinic sites where studies are undertaken and patients recruited. Professor Thumbi Ndung’u is the Scientific Director of the unit. He and his post graduate students have published extensively in the fields of HIV molecular virology and immunology.

Currently the HPP boasts excellent facilities on a par with international research laboratories. These include 17,000 square feet of BL1, BL2 and BL2+ research and office space, 1 LSRII flow cytometer, 2 FACSCalibur flow cytometers, 14 biosafety cabinets, liquid nitrogen storage facility, 10 PCR thermocyclers, cell culture facilities, core facilities for quantitation of HIV viral load and CD4 cell counts, warm rooms, cold rooms, wireless internet, videoconferencing, and sufficient office space for students, as well as space for visiting scientists.

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