SOI alumnus Selin Jessa leading research that could help create a vaccine for HIV/AIDS!

Selin Jessa (right) worked with SFU researchers Xiaomei Kuang, Anh Le and Zabrina Brumme (Photo: Wayne Leidenfrost, Vancouver Sun)

SOI alumnus Selin Jessa (Antarctic 2011) is in the running for a national prize for a research project that could help create a vaccine for HIV/AIDS!Part of the Sanofi BioGENEius Challenge Canada competition, a national competition pairing high school students with science researchers to develop projects with practical applications for health care, agriculture or the environment, Jessa has been doing graduate level research in the field of biogenetics with researchers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Her work isolating a specific HIV mutation through advanced techniques, including molecular cloning and DNA sequencing, took top honours for B.C. in the BioGENEius challenge. The 17-year-old is now a contender for two national prizes and could win a berth to compete in an international science competition in Chicago.

“Essentially there are people who naturally control the virus without drug therapies, they’re called elite controllers, and the way they do that is by forcing the virus in their bodies to mutate into a less virulent state,” Jessa explained Sunday before catching a flight to the national competition in Ottawa.

“I essentially chose one of those mutations, engineered it in an HIV protein … and looked at its function in human cells.”

The research could help explain why some patients are able to control the virus, which may in turn lead to the development of a vaccine, she said.

Way to go Selin!

Read the full story in the Vancouver Sun here:

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