Newsletter Vol 5: Local Outreach and Associate Members

This spring saw employees and faculty of the Ragon Institute more involved in the community than ever before. From community events to student education, Ragon showed its commitment, not only to research, but also to care for those infected with HIV/AIDS.


The Annual AIDS Walk

The 26th annual AIDS Walk and 5K Run is always a highlight for the Ragon Institute. This year, over 30 walkers and runners from Ragon met at the Charles River Esplanade on June 5th, joining more than 10,000 walkers from the Boston area.
After over 10 years of participation, this year saw the most money raised to date: $21,193.00!


This amazing accomplishment ranks Ragon as the second highest team of 500 participating teams!


The money raised benefits the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC) which focuses on prevention and education. AAC provides free HIV testing to people at risk, counseling to people struggling with their diagnosis, as well as housing and utility assistance and legal aid to those infected.


aidswalk_fundIn Massachusetts, the new infection rate has been reduced by 59%, saving thousands of lives and1.6 billion in health care costs. This extraordinary accomplishment makes AAC a leader and national model.


“We are so grateful to Team Ragon for exceeding their fundraising goal and contributing over $21,000”, said Rebecca Haag, President & CEO of AIDS Action Committee. “I visited the Institute several weeks ago and am so impressed with the work and commitment of each and every one of you. On behalf of those affected, infected and at risk for HIV, we thank you.”


Ragon would like to give a special thank the 250 individual donors who contributed this year to the flight against HIV/AIDS.


HIV Awareness Day

This past month the HIV Vaccine trials Unit of Brigham and Women’s Hospital held its first HIV Vaccine Awareness Day focused on local HIV prevention organizations providing resources and education to members of the community.



Representatives from the Ragon Institute hosted a table along with fellow community groups from the Boston area including the Harvard Centers for AIDS Research (CFAR), AIDS Action Committee which sponsors the AIDS Walk, and the Fenway Health Clinical Trials Group.


Here Ragon research technician Elizabeth McAndrews shows a visitor video of monocytes eating phagocytizing, fluorescent beads coated with HIV envelope protein.


In addition to educating the public about the value of their involvement in research, the event also served as a forum for local research and advocacy groups to network and plan future collaborations.


Job Shadowing

This spring the Ragon Institute also participated in the 16th annual Job Shadow Day sponsored by the MGH Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) Youth Programs.



Students from local high schools were paired with MGH staff based on their interests and spent several hours shadowing their hosts while they performed routine responsibilities.


Hosts at Ragon represented a good cross-section of the Institute, from Administrative Director, Kathleen Donnelly to Lab Manager, Alicja Piechocka-Trocha to Principal Investigator, Dr. Sylvie Le Gall.


“It was a pleasure to spend time with the student, introducing her to some of the responsibilities of our jobs and hopefully inspiring her to pursue to pursue a career in this field,” said Kathleen Donnelly. She also noted that the students were remarkably articulate and driven.


During their day, students learned about the structure and funding of Ragon. They also had opportunity to go into the lab and observe research in action.


The MGH Job Shadow Day is a wonderful opportunity to help high school students to explore potential career paths in the field of healthcare research.


New Ragon Associate Members

The Ragon Institute is pleased to welcome three new Associate Members: Salim S. Abdool Karim, MBChB, PhD; Joseph G. Sodroski, B.S. M.D; and Ulrich H. von Andrian, M.D.


Ragon Associate Members are invited to serve a term of appointment of two years and are encouraged to be deeply engaged in the scientific life and culture of Ragon. Associate Members have the opportunity to develop and propose collaborative research projects, to apply for internal funding through competitive review processes, and actively participate in planning scientific programs. The three new Associate Members bring a wealth of scientific experience with them to the Ragon Institute.


karimSalim S. Abdool Karim, MBChB, PhD, is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of KwaZulu-Natal and Director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA). He is also Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at Columbia University and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Cornell University, New York.


He was co-Principal Investigator of the CAPRISA 004 trial of tenofovir gel which provided proof of concept that the antiretroviral drug, tenofovir, can prevent sexually transmitted HIV infection in women. He was involved in the development, as patent co-inventor, of clade C HIV vaccines and subsequently led the first HIV vaccine trial in South Africa. His clinical research on TB-HIV treatment has impacted on and continues to shape the clinical management of co-infected patients.


He is a Member of the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV, Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPfAR), Member of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on “Envisioning a strategy to prepare for the long-term burden of HIV/AIDS” and Member of the Strategic Advisory Board of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise.



sodroski Joseph G. Sodroski, B.S. M.D. received his MD in 1980 from Jefferson Medical College, followed by a research fellowship in Dr. William Haseltine’s laboratory at DFCI. In 1984 he joined the faculty of Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and Harvard Medical School.


His research focuses on the replication and pathogenesis of HIV, and the innate and adaptive host immune response to retrovirus infections.


Currently he is Professor, Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School; Professor, Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard School Of Public Health; and Associate Director, Harvard Medical School Center for AIDS Research, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.





vonAndrianUlrich H. von Andrian, M.D. received his M.D. from Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany. He did postdoctoral work at the La Jolla Institute for Experimental Medicine and, subsequently, at Stanford University in California. He then went onto Harvard in 1994 as an Assistant Professor of Pathology at HMS, and Junior Investigator at the CBR Institute for Biomedical Research (now called The Immune Disease Institute or IDI).  He is currently the Edward Mallinckrodt Jr. Professor of Immunopathology at HMS, and Senior Investigator at IDI.


Uli is a member of the European Academy of Sciences and several professional societies from which he received received professional awards for outstanding research. These include the Amgen Outstanding Investigator Award (ASIP, 2004), the Henry Pickering Bowditch Award (APS, 2006), the BD Biosciences Investigator Award (AAI,2007) and the Eugene Landis Award (MCS, 2010).




Drs. Karim, Sodroski, and von Andrian join Ragon Associate Members: Dr. David Bangsberg, Associate Professor of Medicine (HMS), Dr. Herman N. Eisen, Professor Emeritus and Senior Lecturer (MIT); Dr. Martin Hirsch, Professor of Medicine (HMS); Dr. J. Christopher Love, Associate Professor (MIT); and Dr. Andrew Tager, Assistant Professor of Medicine (HMS).