For a Researcher and Mother, HIV Fight is Personal

Lindsay Wieczorek, PhD, is the winner of a Susie Zeegen Fund Post-doctoral Award for her research into HIV vaccines.

Lindsay Wieczorek, PhD, has worked at the US Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) in the Laboratory of Humoral Immunology for the last 10 years. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins University, and Catholic University, Lindsay was recently given the Susie Zeegen Fund Postdoctoral Award, named for Susie Zeegen, one of the co-founders of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. I spoke with Lindsay about the award and her hopes for her research.

What is your research focused on?
My research at the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) focuses on the design and development of HIV-1 vaccines for testing and the analysis of the immune response elicited by vaccines or during natural infection. In the study supported by the Susie Zeegen Fund for Research, we’re privileged to be able to study the role of antibodies in prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) during childbirth. The ultimate goal is to translate these research findings into the design of a more effective HIV vaccine.

Why are you interested in studying HIV/AIDS?
HIV/AIDS is a challenge for both the public health and scientific community. I’ve been studying HIV at the U.S. Military HIV Research Program for ten years, and (I) am still in awe at how simple and yet complex the virus is. There have been many roadblocks in the development of an HIV vaccine; however, if these can be overcome, the global impact would be immense. This challenge and the potential benefits keep me interested in HIV/AIDS research.

Why did you apply for the Susie Zeegen Fund Postdoctoral Award?
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation was founded on a tragic personal experience with HIV/AIDS that was transformed into an institution designed to protect other mothers and children from sharing that same fate. It is a powerful and inspirational story. The Susie Zeegen Fund Award represents an outreach to the young scientific community, and an opportunity to be connected and supported by this institution. I was happy to see that this opportunity was available.

What does the Award mean to you?
Receiving this award is a great honor. Professionally, it means that our research on perinatal transmission of HIV can continue, moving us closer to better understanding, and one day preventing, infection. Personally, as a mother – I have a toddler and one on the way – I know there is no greater priority than protecting our children. This award allows me to bridge these interests.

Jane Coaston is Media Relations Coordinator for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.