Los Alamos HIV databases support global battles with disease

Our databases now serve more than 10,000 unique website visits per month

December 19, 2023

Brian Foley

Brian Foley, the principal investigator of HIV databases at the Laboratory, shares in a recent column published by The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper how he applies his knowledge of evolution, molecular genetics and epidemiology to studies of how HIV and other viruses have spread through populations.

In the column, Foley traces the development of our HIV genetic sequence database, which originated in 1986 three years after HIV was identified as the cause of AIDS. The Lab continues to keep that going as well as the complementary HIV Immunology Database, a project led by Los Alamos theoretical biologist Bette Korber. The immunology database — the first pathogen-specific immunology database — catalogs and aids understanding of how the human immune system interacts with HIV.

“The databases have been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1988 and was once described by Anthony Fauci as ‘the biggest bang for the buck in all of the NIH.’ The databases now serve more than 10,000 unique website visits per month from researchers located throughout the world. The database team has also taken on other viruses such as Hepatitis C Virus, Ebola and influenza, which have grown and since been passed on to other groups,” Foley wrote.

“The value the HIV sequence and immunology databases have brought to researchers internationally is particularly rewarding. Almost every day, new research papers are published around the world noting the use of the Los Alamos databases for studies ranging from new vaccine approaches to understanding how the virus behaves and changes within its victims. The global impact of the databases is a dramatic testament to the resources a national laboratory can bring to complex, multidisciplinary challenges.”

Read the story as it appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican.