Photo of Professor Alex K Shalek

Alex Shalek wins 2021 Avant Garde Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Categories: Awards, Faculty

This award is given annually in recognition of the exceptional creativity of those who propose high-impact science that will open new areas of HIV research.

Associate Professor Alex K. Shalek has been named the winner of the 2021 Avant Garde Award by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  The NIDA Avant-Garde Award Program for HIV/AIDS and Substance Use Disorder Research supports individual scientists of exceptional creativity at all career levels who propose high-impact research that will open new areas of HIV research and/or lead to new avenues for prevention and treatment of HIV among people who use drugs. The term “avant-garde” is used to describe highly innovative approaches that have the potential to be transformative.

Shalek’s award-winning project is entitled, ‘Defining the impact of drug use on immune function and fitness against HIV-1’. Individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) – and, in particular, people who inject drugs – are at substantial risk for infection with HIV-1 and other pathogens. To develop effective prophylactics and therapeutics against HIV-1 and other infections for these individuals, researchers must first understand how SUDs impact the immune system at a cellular and molecular level. The goal of Shalek’s NIDA Avant-Garde DP1 proposal is to define, at unprecedented resolution, how SUDs influence immune function and response to HIV-1 and other pathogens by developing and applying innovative single-cell and bulk profiling and perturbation tools to inform the design of novel cure and prevention strategies.

The Shalek Lab creates and implements new approaches to elucidate cellular and molecular features that inform tissue-level function and dysfunction across the spectrum of human health and disease.