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Rasmi Thomas, Ph.D.

Chief, Host Genomics Section



Dr. Rasmi Thomas obtained her Ph.D. in Biotechnology from the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology at the University of Kerala, India. She completed her postdoctoral training with Dr. Mary Carrington from the National Cancer Institute, NIH in Frederick, MD. 


Three decades into the HIV epidemic, we know of a minority of individuals that remain uninfected after repeated exposure to HIV. Others become infected but remain AIDS free for many years. Understanding variation in the human genome that contributes to HIV resistance and disease pathogenesis can shed light on the effective immunity to HIV. Previously, candidate gene approaches and genome wide association studies have identified genetic variation in the human major histocompatibility complex HLA genes to have the strongest effect on HIV viral load and rate of disease progression. Several studies have also implicated other immune response genes and host restriction factors with susceptibility to HIV acquisition and disease. 

The main goal of my laboratory is to use cutting edge technologies including next generation sequencing to sequence the entire human genome to interrogate every single variant that might be a causal factor underlying HIV susceptibility, disease progression and response to vaccination. Whole transcriptomics using RNA-Seq is performed to determine host genes involved in early response to infection. MHRP has been developing unique HIV cohorts from Africa and Asia for several years. Since the majority of the host genetic studies have been performed in individuals of Caucasian ancestry, we will have a unique opportunity to examine other populations for host restriction factors. Ultimately, understanding differences in host genes will identify specific components of protective immune responses against HIV infection that could be targeted by vaccination. 

Selected Publications

  1. Ehrenberg PK, Shangguan S, Issac B, Alter G, Geretz A, Izumi T, Bryant C, Eller MA, Wegmann F, Apps R, Creegan M, Bolton DL, Sekaly RP, Robb ML, Gramzinski RA, Pau MG, Schuitemaker H, Barouch DH, Michael NL, Thomas R. A vaccine-induced gene expression signature correlates with protection against SIV and HIV in multiple trials. Sci Transl Med. 2019 Aug 28;11(507). doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaw4236.

  2. Yarzabek B, Zaitouna AJ, Olson E, Silva GN, Geng J, Geretz A, Thomas R, Krishnakumar S, Ramon DS, Raghavan M. Variations in HLA-B cell surface expression, half-life and extracellular antigen receptivity. Elife. 2018 Jul 10;7. pii: e34961. 

  3. Martin MP, Naranbhai V, Shea PR, Qi Y, Ramsuran V, Vince N, Gao X, Thomas R, Brumme ZL, Carlson JM, Wolinsky SM, Goedert JJ, Walker BD, Segal FP, Deeks SG, Haas DW, Migueles SA, Connors M, Michael N, Fellay J, Gostick E, Llewellyn-Lacey S, Price DA, Lafont BA, Pymm P, Saunders PM, Widjaja J, Wong SC, Vivian JP, Rossjohn J, Brooks AG, Carrington M. Killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor 3DL1 variation modifies HLA-B*57 protection against HIV-1. J Clin Invest. 2018 May 1;128(5):1903-1912.

  4. Prentice HA, Tomaras GA, Geraghty DE, Apps R, Fong Y, Ehrenberg PK, Rolland M, Kijak GH, Krebs SJ, Nelson W, DeCamp A, Shen X, Yates NL, Zolla-Pazner S, Nitayaphan S, Rerks-Ngarm S, Kaewkungwal J, Pitisuttithum P, Ferrari G, McElrath MJ,Montefiori DC, Bailer RT, Koup RA, O’Connell RJ, Robb ML, Michael NL, Gilbert PB, Kim JK, Thomas R. HLA class II genes modulate vaccine-induced antibody responses to impact HIV-1 acquisition. 2015. ScienceTranslational Medicine 15:296ra112.

  5. Baldwin KM, Ehrenberg PK, Geretz A, Prentice A, Nitayaphan S, Rerks-Ngarm S, Kaewkungwal J, Pitisuttithum P, O’Connell RJ, Kim JK, Thomas R. HLA class II diversity in the placebo arm of the RV144 Thai Phase 3 HIV vaccine clinical trial. Tissue Antigens  85:117-126.
  6. Ehrenberg PK, Baldwin KM, Geretz A, Apps, R, Polonis, V, Robb ML, Kim JK, Nelson, M, Thomas R. 2014. High-throughput multiplex HLA genotyping by next-generation sequencing using multi-locus individual tagging. BMC Genomics 15:864.
  7. Prentice A, Ehrenberg PK, Baldwin KM, Geretz A, Andrews C, Nitayaphan S, Rerks-Ngarm S, Kaewkungwal J, Pitisuttithum P, O’Connell RJ, Robb ML, Kim JK, Nelson, M, Thomas R. 2014. HLA class I, KIR and genome-wide SNP diversity in the RV144 Thai Phase 3 HIV vaccine clinical trial. Immunogenetics 66:299-310.
  8. Apps R, Qi Y, Carlson JM, Chen H, Gao X, Thomas R, Yuki Y, Del Prete GQ, Goulder P, Brumme ZL, Brumme CJ, John M, Mallal S, Nelson G, Bosch R, Heckerman D, Stein JL, Soderberg KA, Moody MA, Denny TN, Zeng X, Fang J, Moffett A, Lifson JD, Goedert JJ, Buchbinder S, Kirk GD, Fellay J, McLaren P, Deeks SG, Pereyra F, Walker B, Michael NL, Weintrob A, Wolinsky S, Liao W, Carrington M. Influence of HLA-C expression level on HIV control. Science. 2013 Apr 5;340(6128):87-91.
  9. Thomas R, Thio CL, Apps R, Qi Y, Gao X, Marti D, Stein JL, Soderberg KA, Moody MA, Goedert JJ, Kirk GD, Hoots KW, Wolinsky S, and Carrington M. 2012. A novel variant marking HLA-DP expression levels predicts recovery from Hepatitis B Virus infection. Journal of Virology 12: 6979-85.
  10. Thomas R, Apps R, Qi Y, O’Connor G, Ge D, Fellay J, Martin JN, Margolick J, Goedert JJ, Buchbinder S, Kirk GD, Telenti A, Deeks SG, Walker BD, Goldstein D, McVicar DW, Moffett A and Carrington M. 2009. HLA-C cell surface expression and control of HIV/AIDS correlate with a variant upstream of HLA-C. Nature Genetics 12: 1290-1294.

Complete list of published work: