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The Intra- and Inter- Host Evolutionary Dynamics of HIV


This research proposed involves a comprehensive and ground-breaking analysis of the evolutionary dynamics of the immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the causative agent of AIDS. Central to this project is the analysis of the different modes of virus evolution wi thin individual patients and the evolution of the virus within an infected population. Although these temporal scales are related, there is good reason to believe that the evolutionary process differs fundamentally within and among hosts, although to date this has not been properly investigated. The main objective of the project is to determine the similarities and differences between HIV evolutions on an intra- and inter- host level, the relative strength genetic drift and natural selection at this level, of how these shape the evolution of HIV in the long-term, and from this to create a unified model of HIV evolutionary dynamics. Another key objective of the project is to develop computational methods and computer software to measure the evolution, fixati on rate, and fitness effect of HIV mutations. The objectives will be achieved by using a number of different methodical processes to analyse a variety of sequence data sets either extracted from public databases or generated in collaborative projects. The fellowship program will result in the training of a Portuguese scientist by one of the world leading groups on the field of viral evolution. This top quality training will provide the scientist with an understanding of the processes involved in shaping the evolution of the virus in a given population. The training will also equip him with the tools needed for the creation of mathematical models, and bioinformatics software used in the analysis of the evolutionary dynamics of HIV. This research will assist i n the development of effective drugs and vaccines to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and will increase European competitiveness in the novel field of bioinformatics and molecular phylogenetics.

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