Barbara_Payne-297x300iCubed has named Dr. Barbara Payne it’s “Featured Researcher of the Month” for February 2014. Dr. Payne is a research assistant professor in the Laboratory of Viral Immunity and Pathogenesis (LVIP) and is one of newest members of the iCubed team, joining the institute in the fall of 2013.

Dr. Payne’s core project at iCubed is funded through a National Institutes of Health grant known as the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence, or COBRE. Her work is based on the observations that HIV-1 exposed uninfected infants have long lasting immune defects contributing to increased morbidity and mortality that cannot be explained fully by their mothers disease status.  Dr. Payne plans to investigate the role of HIV-1 exposure on the infant’s T cell receptor repertoire at birth and following initial vaccinations for evidence of a lasting effect from maternal viral antigen exposure in utero.  She says the findings from this work may lead to better clinical management of an ever growing global population of children.

Dr. Payne’s career has taken her across the country and around the world. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in biology from the University of Denver in 1986. Two years later she completed her master of science degree in immunology from the University of California Davis followed by a doctorate degree in comparative pathology in 1994. Dr. Payne’s doctorate degree focused on the role of CD8+ T cell mediated immunity in simian immunodeficiency virus infection as a model for HIV-1 infection in humans.

Her first post-doctoral training was under Dr. Ray Welsh at the University of Massachusetts Medical School investigating the role of apoptosis in immune down-regulation and return to homeostasis following a mouse model for acute viral infections, LCMV. She then took a senior post-doctoral position in 2000 with the University of Washington under the guidance of Dr. Grace John-Stewart. There she worked on developing on-site capacity to test infant immune responses ex vivo in studies conducted in Nairobi, Kenya, on mother to child transmission of HIV-1.  The international research was supported by the Fogarty International Center, which is part of the NIH. Dr. Payne’s research interests expanded to include pediatric immunology of viral infections and vaccines, which she plans to pursue at iCubed.

Dr. Payne’s future plans are to develop a clinical research collaboration between the University of Rhode Island and the University of Nairobi in pediatric immunology of HIV exposure and other childhood infections.