Spotlight Story

Lauren Hirao
Novel therapies for HIV and other chronic inflammatory diseases of the gut.

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Lauren Hirao is a postdoctoral scholar in the Medical Microbiology and Immunology Department. She received her Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology with a concentration in gene therapy and vaccines from the University of Pennsylvania. Her thesis involved developing novel vaccination strategies for HIV.

What’s important about your research—and where do you hope to take it?

My research aims to understand how HIV affects gut function. This is an important area of research, since the gut has to facilitate nutrient absorption while acting as a physical and immunological barrier to harmful bacteria—two functions that can become impaired in HIV patients. Recently, my research has focused on understanding how HIV infection alters the intestinal microbiota, the 100 trillion bacteria that reside in our gut, and the consequences of chronic disease on the host-microbe relationship.

What are you most passionate about in your work?

Part of my research investigating the host-microbe relationship has involved examining the ability of probiotic bacteria to dampen HIV-induced inflammation and restore gut function. This aspect of my work is truly exciting as it has the potential to be translated into novel therapies for HIV as well as other chronic inflammatory diseases of the gut.

How will the Business Development Fellows program help you to change the world?

My graduate and postdoctoral work has been translational in nature—that is, taking new discoveries from the bench into the clinic. Through the Business Development Program I hope to gain the skills that will allow me to transform discoveries, validated in the clinic, into businesses that can deliver these technologies to the public and improve human health.

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