Thumbi Ndung’u

Thumbi Ndung’u, PhD

Principal Investigator

Associate Member

Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT, and Harvard

Visiting Scientist

Massachusetts General Hospital

Scientific Director

HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP), Doris Duke Medical Research Institute, University of KwaZulu-Natal


+27 31 260 4887

HIV Pathogenesis Programme

AHRI Website

Ndung'u's profile at AHRI

Immune mechanisms of HIV control

Research Overview

The Ndung’u Lab studies host-pathogen interactions, particularly antiviral immune responses associated with protection against or control of HIV infection.  Our research focuses on harnessing antiviral immune responses for HIV vaccine development or cure, the implications of HIV diversity for epidemic spread, pathogenesis, immune control, and the impact of HIV infection on anti-tuberculosis immune control mechanisms.

Recognition and Media

Dr. Ndung’u has received numerous awards and recognition. He is a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, and a Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences. He is a recipient of the South African Medical Research Gold Medal award for seminal contributions to health research.


Dr. Ndung’u was awarded the Edgar Haber Award (Harvard University), the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award, University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Friedland Senior Health Researcher Prize-University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and the South African Medical Research Council Gold Scientific Achievement Award. He has also received the Research Excellence Award at the South African Health Excellence Awards.

Selected Publications

Construction and Analysis of an Infectious Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Subtype C Molecular Clone

Thumbi Ndung’u, Boris Renjifo B, and Max Essex.

Journal of Virology 2001 Jun;75(11):4964-72. PMID: 11333875

Gag-Protease-Mediated Replication Capacity in HIV-1 Subtype C Chronic Infection: Associations with HLA Type and Clinical Parameters

Jaclyn K. Wright, Zabrina L. Brumme, Jonathan M. Carlson, David Heckerman, Carl M. Kadie, Chanson J. Brumme, Bingxia Wang, Elena Losina, Toshiyuki Miura, Fundisiwe Chonco, Mary van der Stok, Zenele Mncube, Karen Bishop, Philip J.R. Goulder, Bruce D. Walker, Mark A. Brockman, Thumbi Ndung’u.

Journal of Virology 2010 Oct;84(20):10820-31. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01084-10. Epub 2010 Aug 11. PMID: 20702636

Ability of HIV-1 Nef to downregulate CD4 and HLA class I differs among viral subtypes

Jaclyn K Mann, Helen Byakwaga, Xiaomei T Kuang, Anh Q Le, Chanson J Brumme, Philip Mwimanzi, Saleha Omarjee, Eric Martin, Guinevere Q Lee, Bemuluyigza Baraki, Ryan Danroth, Rosemary McCloskey, Conrad Muzoora, David R Bangsberg, Peter W Hunt, Philip JR Goulder, Bruce D Walker, P Richard Harrigan, Jeff N Martin, Thumbi Ndung’u, Mark A Brockman and Zabrina L Brumme.

Retrovirology 2013 Sep 16;10:100. doi: 10.1186/1742-4690-10-100. PMID: 24041011

Selection bias at the heterosexual HIV-1 transmission bottleneck

Jonathan M. Carlson, Malinda Schaefer, Daniela Monaco, Rebecca Batorsky, Daniel T. Claiborne, Jessica Prince, Martin J. Deymier, Zachary S. Ende, Nichole R. Klatt, Charles E. DeZiel, Tien-Ho Lin, Jian Peng, Aaron Seese, Roger Shapiro, John Frater, Thumbi Ndung’u, Jianming Tang, Paul Goepfert, Jill Gilmour, Matt A. Price, William Kilembe, David Heckerman, Philip J.R. Goulder, Todd M. Allen, Susan Allen and Eric Hunter.

Science 2014 Jul 11;345(6193):1254031. doi: 10.1126/science.1254031. Epub 2014 Jul 10. PMID: 25013080

Subtype-Specific Differences in Gag-Protease-Driven Replication Capacity are Consistent with Inter-Subtype Differences in HIV-1 Disease Progression

Marion W. Kiguoya, Jaclyn K. Mann, Denis Chopera, Kamini Gounder, Guinevere Q. Lee, Peter W. Hunt, Jeffrey N. Martin, T. Blake Ball, Joshua Kimani, Zabrina L. Brumme, Mark A. Brockman, Thumbi Ndung’u

Journal of Virology 2017 Jun 9;91(13). pii: e00253-17. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00253-17. Print 2017 Jul 1. PMID: 28424286

CD8+ T cell breadth and ex vivo virus inhibition capacity distinguish between viremic controllers with and without protective HLA class I alleles

Catherine K. Koofhethile, Zaza M. Ndhlovu, Christina Thobakgale-Tshabalala, Julia G. Prado, Nasreen Ismail, Zenele Mncube, Lungile Mkhize, Mary van der Stok, Nonhlanhla Yende, Bruce D. Walker, Philip J.R. Goulder and Thumbi Ndung’u.

Journal of Virology 2016 Jul 11;90(15):6818-31. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00276-16. Print 2016 Aug 1. PMID: 27194762

Why and where an HIV cure is needed and how it might be achieved

Thumbi Ndung’u, Joseph M. McCune, and Steven G. Deeks.

Nature 2019 Dec;576(7787):397-405. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1841-8. Epub 2019 Dec 18. Review. PMID: 31853080

Association between the cytokine storm, immune cell dynamics and viral replicative capacity in hyperacute HIV infection

Daniel M. Muema, Ngomu A. Akilimali, Okechukwu C. Ndumnego, Sipho S. Rasehlo, Raveshni Durgiah, Doty Ojwach, Nasreen Khan, Mary Dong, Amber Moodley, Krista L. Dong, Zaza M. Ndhlovu, Jenniffer Mabuka, Bruce D. Walker, Jaclyn K. Mann, Thumbi Ndung’u.

BMC Medicine 2020 Mar 25;18(1):81. doi: 10.1186/s12916-020-01529-6. PMID: 32209092

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