News Release

Penn Medicine researcher receives early career honor from Burroughs Wellcome Fund

Award will support research on understanding the epigenetic mechanisms of HIV persistence

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

PHILADELPHIA -- Golnaz Vahedi, PhD, an assistant professor of Genetics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has received the Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease (PATH) award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, an independent foundation based in Research Triangle Park, NC dedicated to advancing the biomedical sciences. Dr. Vahedi is one of 9 recipients selected from 157 nominees nationwide.

Under the grant, Dr. Vahedi will work to uncover how lentiviruses change the linear and three-dimensional organization of the host genome, findings which could pave the way to understand how HIV persistence occurs.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has dramatically reduced morbidity and mortality for people living with HIV by effectively suppressing viral replication to undetectable levels in plasma. However, ART does not eradicate HIV. The major obstacle to cure HIV is that the virus establishes stable reservoirs of persistently-infected cells. Exactly how HIV can evade immune surveillance remains poorly understood.

Under this grant, Dr. Vahedi and her laboratory will seek to devise novel epigenetic technologies to decipher how lentiviruses such as HIV hijack the 3D genome architecture of host cells.

"We are thrilled that our laboratory is supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund," Dr. Vahedi said. "Despite major progress in epigenomic technologies, these techniques are underutilized in studying host-pathogen interactions and particularly the associations of lentiviruses and the host chromatin remain largely understudied. Our proposed methods and their application to cells from HIV-1 patients will pave the way to define a connection between integration and silencing of the viral genome occurring during HIV-1 latency."

PATH is a highly competitive award program that provides $500,000 over a period of five years. The awards are intended to give recipients the freedom and flexibility to pursue new avenues of inquiry, stimulating higher risk research projects that hold potential for significantly advancing understanding of how infectious diseases work and how health is maintained.

Dr. Vahedi received her B.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology, Iran and her Ph.D. degree from Texas A&M University. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health, before joining Penn in 2015. She is also a member of the Institute for Immunology and the Epigenetics Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.


Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $7.8 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $425 million awarded in the 2018 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center--which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report--Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Home Care and Hospice Services, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 40,000 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2018, Penn Medicine provided more than $525 million to benefit our community.

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