close Icon

Harnessing Natural Killer cells to eliminate HIV

A ‘sterilising’ cure for HIV requires the elimination of all cellular sources of HIV, including those which persist in long-lived cells. Achieving this will likely require dedicated strategies to enhance the ability of the body’s immune system to recognise and kill HIV-infected cells. 

Natural killer (NK) cells are innate immune cells which can kill virally-infected cells by antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), where they recognise target cells coated with antibodies. ADCC is associated with both HIV control and protection and is a promising strategy for targeting HIV-infected cells, particularly macrophages which are a type of immune cell infected by HIV that shows resistance to cell death.

We are investigating antibodies which bind to the HIV envelope (Env) protein expressed on HIV-infected cells and facilitate NK cell-mediated elimination by ADCC. We are working to enhance the function of both these antibodies and NK cells themselves to develop a potent immunotherapy-based approach to eliminate challenging and persistent sources of HIV, such as found in macrophages.

This project aims to develop ‘weaponised’ anti-Env antibodies and identify NK cell subpopulations which can effectively target and eliminate HIV-infected cells, including macrophages.

2022 - Ongoing

  • Identifying anti-HIV envelope antibodies able to recognise HIV-infected cells and enhance their ability to mediate ADCC.
  • Exploring subpopulations of NK cells which show potent cytotoxicity against HIV-infected targets.
  • Developing immunotherapy-based strategies to expand populations of potent NK cells which can be used to eliminate HIV-infected cells in people with HIV.

In this project we are developing an immunotherapy-based strategy to enhance the elimination of HIV-infected cells as part of a combined HIV cure intervention. This is important to advance the possibility of a HIV cure for the millions of people living with HIV worldwide. 

Annahearps 002 WEB

Doctor Anna Hearps

Contact Doctor Anna Hearps for more information about this project. 


Partners +

  • American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR)