Dr. Francesco Simonetti, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, received the Director's Early Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health. Part of the NIH's High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, the award provides an opportunity for exceptional junior scientists who have recently received their doctoral degree or completed their medical residency to skip traditional post-doctoral training and move immediately into independent research positions. Simonetti's funded project is "Investigating Antigen-Driven Clonal Proliferation to Target HIV-1 Persistence."
Dr. Simonetti earned his M.D. and completed his clinical training in Infectious Diseases at the University of Milan in Italy. During his fellowship, he worked at the National Cancer Institute at the HIV Dynamics and Replication Program, where he helped to uncover the role of viral integration and cell proliferation in HIV persistence. In 2021, he earned his Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. His graduate work in the lab of Drs. Robert Siliciano and Janet Siliciano focused on the forces driving the survival and selection of HIV-infected cells. Dr. Simonetti's translational approach combines patient-centered observations and novel molecular assays to investigate virus-host interactions. He is especially interested in the clonal expansion of HIV-infected cells, which represents a major obstacle to achieving a cure for HIV. His laboratory currently focuses on how adaptive immune responses shape the dynamics and persistence of the HIV reservoir.