IN PERSON: The Puzzle of HIV Spikes


Join the HCW, the MIT Club, and the Columbia Club as Mehran Kardar, the Francis Friedman Professor of Physics at MIT and former Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, discusses the evolution of HIV spike density and how researchers can use this knowledge to inform HIV vaccine development. 


When: Monday, May 1st, 2023, 6:30-8:30pm

Where: Hogan Lovells, 555 13th St NW, Washington, DC 20004 (check in at reception, and you will be directed upstairs)


The MIT Club has invited us (along with the Columbia Club) to co-host MIT's Francis Friedman Professor of Physics Mehran Kardar as he discusses the evolution of spike proteins on the HIV virus, and how his work can be used to develop more vaccines. Join us for dinner and drinks as we learn about the future of fighting this worldwide epidemic.


About the presentation:

The spike protein on the envelope of a virus mediates its entry into the host cell, and high spike densities promote infection. While most viruses have high spike density, HIV has almost hundred times fewer spikes, a puzzle that we would like to unravel. The targets of HIV are host immune cells associated with the production of antibodies that neutralize infection. By modeling maturation of antibodies as a rapid form of evolution, we show that an intermediate spike density promotes the strongest antibodies. Thus, viruses may have evolved to have extreme spike densities (high or low) to evade potent antibody response. We suggest that the depletion of immune cells associated with antibody production at the outset of HIV infection provides an evolutionary explanation for the low spike density of HIV. This understanding furnishes guidance for design of synthetic vaccine particles.


About the speaker: 

Mehran Kardar is the Francis Friedman Professor of Physics at MIT. Born and educated through high school in Tehran (Iran), he obtained a BA degree from Cambridge University (UK) in 1979, and a PhD in Physics from MIT in 1983.  He was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows for three years, before joining MIT faculty in 1986. His specialty is Statistical Physics, having authored two textbooks in this field, and conducted research on a variety of topics spanning soft-matter, biophysics, and fluctuation-induced phenomena. Prof. Kardar is the recipient of a number of awards including the A.P. Sloan Fellowship, Presidential Young Investigator Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Award. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences.




Mixed Greens Salad

Grape tomatoes, cucumbers, carrot and croutons with 
ranch dressing and balsamic vinaigrette.



Salmon Piccata

Fresh herbs, finished with garlic, lemon butter sauce and fresh parsley


Dijon and Herb-Crusted Tri-Tip Steak (GF)
Accompanied by roasted tri-color fingerling potatoes


Beyond Meat Cacciatore (Vegan, GF)
Topped with mushroom, grilled onion and roasted



Chef's Choice Vegetable & Starch



Chef’s assorted sweets


Plus beer, wine, soft drinks, coffee & tea



Harvard Club Members & their Guests: $55


Covid-related Safety Requirements: If you have recently tested positive or have symptoms, please do not attend this event.  If you are ill, please notify us prior to the start of the event and we will be happy to credit your ticket payment to a future event.  The Club encourages everyone to be vaccinated and boosted, and to wear masks indoors when not eating or drinking, especially when social distance cannot be maintained.

Register on the MIT Club site here!


6:30PM - 8:30PM Mon 1 May 2023, Eastern timezone


Hogan Lovells
555 13th St NW
Washington, DC 20004 United States

[ Get Directions ]

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