Student Contributes to Pioneer of Cell-Based HIV-1 Mutant Studies

© Western New Mexico University

Christian Topete is conducting research that could aid in vaccination development studies for what is classified today as untreatable HIV-1. He is in his senior year under a partnership that allows biotechnology students at Glendale Community College to earn bachelor’s degrees from Western New Mexico University. Since being admitted to the program, Christian has taken at least one WNMU-based class each semester, also starting summer classes through WNMU. “I’m taking immunology now, and what I learned in my previous classes is coming into play,” he says.

This summer, he took a research internship at CSU. “The main goal of the lab was to characterize drug resistance in HIV Type 1,” he says. “My project was working with clinically isolated protease mutants. These were from patients who had untreatable HIV. This is a pioneer of cell-based HIV mutant studies.”

Because this is one of the first cell-based protease mutant research projects ever, there are no other points of reference. “The data we collected this summer characterizes that protease inhibited resistance can have more than one pathway as far as mature protease development. We think it might be beneficial to analyze protease before it matures,” Christian says.

He is continuing the project from the lab at Glendale Community College, and last week, he presented about it at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. “I applied for and received the travel scholarship offered every month through the WNMU Student Research and Professional Development funds,” he says. “If it weren’t for WNMU, I wouldn’t have attended this conference.”

After he graduates, Christian hopes to work as a virologist at the Center for Disease Control. “Dealing with nasty bugs is my dream,” he says.

This is a student scholar profile produced to raise awareness of undergraduate research opportunities available to WNMU students. For more info about WNMU Student Research and Professional Development, contact Joe Doyle at 575-538-6658 or

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