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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Ismael Ben F. Fofana

research associate professor

Ismael Ben F. Fofana

Ph.D., University of Cocody

Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire

Phone: 617.552.3556


414 Higgins

Research Experience

Research Assistant Professor, Biology department, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass. (2012-2016)

Research Associate, Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, New England Primate Research Center, Harvard Medical School (2011-2012)

Postdoctoral Research fellow, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, New England Primate Research Center, Harvard Medical School (2007-2011)

Research scientist, Institute for Genetic Medicine, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan (2005-2007)

Research scholar (Ph.D. Dissertation Research), Donald Danforth Plant Science Center St-Louis, Missouri (2001-2004)

Field of Interest

HIV/AIDS vaccine, SIV/macaque model of AIDS, Phage Display and Antibody Engineering, Virus evolution and escape of antibody responses

Academic Profile

HIV infection in humans and SIV infection in macaques are accompanied by the development of antibody responses to viral antigens, especially the envelope glycoprotein. In the majority of cases, these antibodies fail to protect and infected subjects eventually progress to AIDS. Similarly, induction of protective antibodies by vaccination remains a daunting enterprise. Antibodies produced in response to viral infection can be classified into neutralizing and non-neutralizing. Neutralizing antibodies are highly desirable but have yet to be achieved by vaccination. Moreover, a number of studies have now suggested a role for non-neutralizing antibodies in preventing infection and/or disease progression. In either case, it often happens that resistant virus strains emerge in infected individuals prior to development of protective antibodies, rendering their presence of no benefit in preventing disease progression. Conventional methods for viral escape variant identification by Sanger sequencing and antibody immune response assessment by ELISA, EliSpot or viral neutralization assay appear insufficient to elucidate the mechanism of protection during the continuous race for survival between virus and host immune responses.

In order to study the interplay between virus and antibody, we use the SIV/macaque model of HIV/AIDS. We assess immune response to vaccination or infection by conventional parameters, such as RNA viral load, antibody titer (ELISA), virus neutralization assay, B cell EliSpot, B cell dysfunction/phenotypes (by multiparameter flow cytometry). We also use high throughput next generation sequencing to track the appearance of virus escape variants and to understand the evolution of immunoglobulin genes (IgG). Finally, we use phage display technology to select viral-specific monoclonal antibodies and genetic engineering to improve neutralizing potency of promising clones.

Representative Publications

Sergio Ita, Mayara R. Agostinho, Katherine Sullivan, Seung Yub Han, Rana Akleh, Welkin E. Johnson and Ismael Ben F. Fofana (2017). Analysis of SIVmac Envelope-specific antibodies selected via phage display. AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses. (Accepted)

Fofana IBF, AD Colantonio, RK Reeves, MA Connole, JM Gillis, LR Hall, S Sato, DT Evans, RP Johnson and WE Johnson. 2011. Flow-cytometry Based Identification of SIV Env-specific B Lymphocytes. J Immunol Methods. 370: 75-85

Jia B, Serra-Moreno R, Neidemyer W, Jr., Rahmberg A, Mackey J, Fofana IB, Johnson W, Westmoreland S, Evans D. 2009. Species-specific Activity of SIV Nef and HIV-1 Vpu in Overcoming Restriction by Tetherin/BST2. PLoS Pathog. 2009 May; 5(5):e1000429.

McNatt MW, Zang T, Hatziioannou T, Bartlett M, Fofana IB, Johnson WE, Neil SJD and Bieniasz P 2009. Species-specific activity of HIV-1 Vpu and positive selection of tetherin transmembrane domain variants. PLoS Pathog. 2009 Feb; 5 (2), e1000300.

Okada H, Zhang X, Fofana IB, Nagai M, Suzuki H, Ohashi T, and Shida H (2009). Synergistic effect of human-CycT1 and -CRM1 on HIV-1 propagation in rat T cells and macrophages. Retrovirology, 6:43.

Suzuki H, Kidokoro M, Fofana IB, Ohashi T, Okamura T, Matsuo K, Yamamoto N, Shida H (2008). Immunogenicity of newly constructed attenuated vaccinia strain LC16m8∆ that expresses SIV Gag protein. Vaccine, 27(7): 966-71.

Ndunguru, J, Legg, J.P., Fofana, I.B.F., Aveling, T.A.S, Thompson, G. and Fauquet, C.M. (2006).). Identification of a defective molecule derived from DNA-A of the bipartite begomovirus of East African cassava mosaic virus. Plant Pathology. 55, 2-10

Fofana IBF, Sangaré A, Collier R, Taylor C and Fauquet C (2004). A geminivirus-Induced gene silencing system for gene function validation in cassava. Pant Mol Biology, 56: 613–624

I.B.F Fofana, A. Sangaré, J. Ndunguru, K. Kahn and C.M. Fauquet, (2003). Principle of control of virus diseases in developing countries. In: Virus and Virus-like Diseases of Major Crops in Developing Countries. Gad Loebenstein and George Thottappilly (eds). Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp 31-54

A Kouassi, IBF Fofana, F Bois and J Labarère, 2000. Collection and Preservation of Mushrooms genetic resources in Ivory Coast, for their utilization for food and Agriculture. In: Mushroom Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Labarère and Menini (eds.). Global Network on Mushrooms under the aegis of F.A.O. pp 173-185