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Phyllis Jean Kanki, D.Sc., D.V.M.

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University of Minnesota School of Veterinary MedicineD.V.M. 1982
Harvard School of Public HealthD.Sc.1985

My research centers on the virology, molecular epidemiology of HIV in Africa along with implementation science work to improve HIV outcomes. I have worked in West Africa since the 1980s and in 2000, I created and directed the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria (APIN), with a $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since 2004, I led the Harvard President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) providing prevention, care and HIV antiretroviral therapy in Nigeria, Botswana, and Tanzania. In addition to the capacity building for clinical, laboratory and research capabilities, the program provided treatment for over 160,000 AIDS patients. The PEPFAR program in Nigeria has developed an extensive electronic medical record system that provides real time access to >100,000 patients on antiretroviral treatment. These databases allow us to promote better clinical care and also to answer operational research questions dealing with the efficacy of ART and PMTCT interventions and modulators of this response. Along with Nigerian colleagues, my research group has addressed topics including with HIV co-infections, determinants of ART efficacy and evaluation of PMTCT interventions. In an effort to optimize HIV outcomes we have characterized losses to follow-up in HIV care, treatment and PMTCT interventions and HIV drug resistance. I am currently co-PI for a trial of point of care HIV viral load monitoring to enhance ART outcomes and retention on ART in Nigeria.

My long-term research collaborations in West Africa have also incorporated training and research capacity building. I served as the co-principal investigator of the Harvard School of Public Health AITRIP (1988-2013) and I currently lead the Harvard component for NIH Medical Education Partnership Initiatives (MEPI) at the University of Ibadan, Jos and Lagos. These programs seek to enhance research capacity for junior faculty. I have provided mentoring for more than 60 doctoral students or fellows from the US and African countries and I am an honorary faculty member at the University of Ibadan and University of Jos in Nigeria.

Following the previous epidemics of Ebola and Zika virus, we have documented the presence of ZIKV infection in Senegalese and Nigerian fever patients over ~ 25 years, demonstrating the endemicity of this unique arbovirus in the region. We have described the longevity, specificity and cross reactivity of T cell responses to ZIKV and DENV NS3. We have also characterized the T cell responses in survivors and exposed health care workers from the 2015 Nigeria EBOV outbreak. We are currently conducting an NIH funded study on the impact of Zika virus infection on pregnancy outcomes in Nigeria.

In response to the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, I am working with e25Bio an MIT engine laboratory towards development of point of care antigen and antibody assays as well as a pan-subgroup 2b betacoronavirus assays that may serve as zoonotic surveillance tool for future emergent SARS-like viruses.

The research activities and funding listed below are automatically derived from NIH ExPORTER and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing items. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.
  1. (Park & Kanki) May 13, 2020 - May 12, 2021
    Dean’s Challenge Award
    Role Description: Pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 infection in primary human airway epithelial cells: Role of age Primary bronchial epithelial cells are the major target of SARS-CoV-2 infection. We will characterize viral replication, apoptosis and pyroptosis in cells from young and older human donors cultured in air-liquid interface.
  2. R21AI137840 (KANKI, PHYLLIS J.) Dec 21, 2018 - Nov 30, 2021
    Zika Virus in Pregnancy in Nigeria
    Role Description: In 1947, Zika virus (ZIKV) was discovered in Africa and was considered an obscure flavivirus, however from 2015-17, 70 countries reported mosquito-borne ZIKV with intense epidemics sweeping South America and the Caribbean. Now recognized to have caused congenital microcephaly, various ocular and neurologic lesions, a central question remains as to whether the African ZIKV virus poses similar epidemiologic and pathogenic risk for African populations. In Nigeria, we identify ZIKV infected pregnant women and prospectively follow them to determine the consequences to their babies.
    Role: Principal Investigator
  3. U2GGH002098 (Okonkwo) Sep 30, 2017 - Sep 29, 2022
    Improving Comprehensive AIDS Response Enhanced for Sustainability (iCARES)
    Role Description: A hybrid of facility and community based interventions, that will expand access to comprehensive HIV prevention, care and treatment services in eight (8) states of Benue, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and Plateau in Nigeria. The program, funded by PEPFAR through CDC, aims to contribute to the UNAIDS 90-90-90 goal of epidemic control in Nigeria.
  4. U01GH002109 (AGBAJI, OCHE OCHAI) Sep 30, 2016 - Sep 29, 2021
    Reaching 90% target of HIV viral suppression: The role of point of care VL monitoring in resources constrained settings
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator
  5. D43TW010130 (Sagay) Sep 9, 2015 - Jul 31, 2021
    Support of Training and Mentoring in Nigeria for Academics (STAMINA)
    Role Description: Research training for career development of junior faculty in Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) to support and energize research training programs for junior faculty at the University of Jos and Ahmadu Bello University, to increase their capacity to participate in and carry out locally relevant research that contributes to improved human health and to foster the next generation of faculty researchers in Nigeria.

Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.
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Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.