We have known for more than 20 years that HIV can spread within cells of the immune system and propagate through the organism. However, exactly how the virus managed to open the cellular entry doors to facilitate its dispersion remained an enigma. Our group found these doors and realised that the entry mechanism was common to several cell types, not only HIV but also Ebola. This is because the key that opens the cellular door is present in these two types of virus, as well as a few others.
Over a decade of research went into identifying this key and door mechanism, but thanks to our efforts we now have specific monoclonal antibodies that prevent the virus accessing immune system cells. It is as if we had stuck some chewing gum on the door lock that stops the key entering. In the case of HIV, these antibodies block entry to the cells that spread the virus through the body, and in that of Ebola, they prevent infection of the cells that can produce new viruses. Since these antibodies are active against different viruses we now have a battery of molecules that have a pan-viral effect.