As chief of viral genetics for the Military HIV Research Program (MHRP), Dr. Morgane Rolland is interested in better understanding the infectious disease dynamics of emerging human viral pathogens, in particular HIV-1, and translating this knowledge to develop vaccines. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, her lab section has pivoted to studying the SARS-CoV-2 virus to inform the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Rolland Lab Pivots to COVID
The Viral Genetics and Systems Serology lab at WRAIR, whose research usually focuses on HIV viral genetics, has shifted their attention to COVID-19 during the current global health emergency.
“It’s critical that people in various fields come together as we focus on learning everything we can about this virus,” said Dr. Morgane Rolland, chief of Viral Genetics at WRAIR. “Teamwork will be vitally important to stem the tide of this pandemic.”
Dr. Rolland and her team began characterizing SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus diversification early in the pandemic and found that the SARS-CoV-2 genome has evolved through a mostly random process rather than through adaptation to the human hosts it encounters.
In an early paper, Rolland published data findings that indicated low-level genetic variation among variants that emerged during the first half of 2020. Read more about the paper here. Her current work incorporates genetic sequencing of more recently emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, with analyses and publications in progress.
Dr. Rolland received her Ph.D. from the University of Bordeaux, France in 2003. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship with Professor James I. Mullins in the Microbiology department of the University of Washington in Seattle between 2004 and 2010.
The Rolland Lab analyzes molecular sequence data to infer evolutionary and population dynamic processes, while also integrating structural bioinformatics to the analysis of pathogen sequences. Our studies aim to characterize the interplay between evolutionary dynamics and the host immune pressure in the context of natural infection or following vaccination.
The Rolland Lab has pioneered sieve analyses methods, aiding understanding of the genetic consequences of vaccine-induced immune responses in breakthrough infections, thereby providing insights on potential mechanisms of vaccine protection or on risks for future vaccine resistance.
The fact that vaccine efficacy was seen in the absence of high titers of neutralizing antibodies in the context of HIV-1 or Dengue vaccination led us to develop a systems serology platform allowing us to profile Fc-antibody function biophysically and functionally. With this approach, the lab integrates data from different immunological assays generated by the Rolland group and other MHRP labs using machine learning methods to provide a systems-level understanding of antibody function beyond neutralization.
Dr Rolland’s group includes scientists with expertise in evolutionary biology, population genetics, structural bioinformatics, immunology, mathematical modeling and statistics.
Research topics include:
Acute/Early HIV-1 infection
Follow-up of high-risk volunteers in the RV217/ECHO cohort allows us to understand HIV-1 transmission, its adaptation to new hosts, and the development of immune escape.
Breakthrough HIV-1 infections in vaccine trials
The analysis of HIV-1 breakthrough infections allows to understand the genetic consequences of vaccine-induced immune responses and can provide insights on potential mechanisms of vaccine protection.
HIV-1 vaccine design
Harnessing aspects of HIV-1 dynamics and evolution to develop better HIV-1 vaccine candidates.
- Dearlove B, Lewitus E, Bai H, Li Y, Reeves DB, Joyce MG, Scott PT, Amare MF, Vasan S, Michael NL, Modjarrad K, Rolland M. A SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate would likely match all currently circulating variants. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Sep 22;117(38):23652-23662. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2008281117. Epub 2020 Aug 31.
- Rolland M, Tovanabutra S, Dearlove B, Li Y, Owen CL, Lewitus E, Sanders-Buell E, Bose M, O'Sullivan A, Rossenkhan R, Labuschagne JPL, Edlefsen PT, Reeves DB, Kijak G, Miller S, Poltavee K, Lee J, Bonar L, Harbolick E, Ahani B, Pham P, Kibuuka H, Maganga L, Nitayaphan S, Sawe FK, Eller LA, Gramzinski R, Kim JH, Michael NL, Robb ML; RV217 Study Team. Molecular dating and viral load growth rates suggested that the eclipse phase lasted about a week in HIV-1 infected adults in East Africa and Thailand. PLoS Pathog. Cale EM, Bai H, Bose M, Messina MA, Colby D, Sanders-Buell E, Dearlove BL, Li Y, Engeman E, Silas D, O'Sullivan AM, Mann B, Pinyakorn S, Intasan J, Benjapornpong K, Sacdalan C, Kroon E, Phanuphak N, Gramzinski R, Vasan S, Robb ML, Michael NL, Lynch RM, Bailer R, Pagliuzza A, Chomont N, Pegu A, Doria-Rose NA, Trautmann L, Crowell TA, Mascola J, Ananworanich J, Tovanabutra S, Rolland M. Neutralizing antibody VRC01 failed to select for HIV-1 mutations upon viral rebound. J Clin Invest.
- Janes H, Herbeck JT, Tovanabutra S, Thomas R, Frahm N, Duerr A, Hural J, Corey L, Self SG, Buchbinder SP, McElrath MJ, O'Connell RJ, Paris RM, Rerks-Ngarm S, Nitayaphan S, Pitisuttihum P, Kaewkungwal J, Robb ML, Michael NL, Mullins JI, Kim JH, Gilbert PB, Rolland M. HIV-1 infections with multiple founders are associated with higher viral loads than infections with single founders. 2015. Nature Medicine.
- Rolland M., Edlefsen PT., Larsen BB., Tovanabutra S., Sanders-Buell E., Hertz T., DeCamp AC., Carrico C., MenisS., Magaret CA., Ahmed H., Juraska M., Chen L., Konopa P., Nariya S., Stoddard JN., Wong K., Zhao H., Deng W., Maust BS., Bose M., Howell S., Bates A., Lazzaro M., O'Sullivan A., Lei E., Bradfield A., Ibitamuno G., Assawadarachai V., O'Connell RJ., DeSouza MS., Nitayaphan S., Rerks-Ngarm S., Robb ML., McLellan JS., Georgiev I.,Kwong PD., Carlson JM., Michael NL., Schief WR., Gilbert PB., Mullins JI., Kim JH. Increased HIV-1 vaccine efficacy against viruses with genetic signatures in Env V2. Nature.
- Rolland M., Tovanabutra S., deCamp A.C., Frahm N., Gilbert P.B., Sanders-Buell E., Heath L., Magaret C., Bose M., Bradfield A., O’Sullivan A., Crossler J., Jones T., Nau M., Wong K., Zhao H., Raugi D.N., Sorensen S., Stoddard J.N., Maust B.S., Deng W., Hural J., Dubey S., Michael N.L., Shiver J., Corey L., Li F., Self S.G., Kim J., Buchbinder S., Casimiro D.R., Robertson M.L., Duerr A., McElrath M.J., McCutchan F.E., and Mullins J.I. Genetic impact of vaccination on breakthrough HIV-1 sequences from the Step trial. 2011. Nature Medicine.
- Herbeck J.T., Rolland M., Liu Y., McLaughlin S., McNevin J., Zhao H., Wong K., Stoddard J.N., Raugi D.N., Sorensen S., Genowati I., Birditt B., McKay A., Diem K., Maust B.S., Deng W., Collier A.C., Stekler J.D., McElrath M.J., and Mullins J.I. Demographic processes affect HIV-1 evolution in primary infection before the onset of selective processes. 2011. Journal of Virology.
- Rolland M., Nickle D.C., Mullins J.I. HIV-1 group M Conserved Elements vaccine. 2007. PLoS Pathogens.