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Sandhya Vasan, MD, Director, HJF Component of EIDB and MHRP

Dr. Vasan leads a workforce of >700 employees in multiple nations in a comprehensive effort to fight HIV and emerging infectious diseases.  She has leveraged her extensive history in clinical vaccine development, animal studies, and the basic pathogenesis of infectious diseases to now combat the COVID-19 pandemic in support of and in close collaboration with U.S. government colleagues at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. 

Dr. Vasan is most directly focused on the following efforts against COVID-19: 

  • Development of a novel Spike Ferretin Nanoparticle (SpFN) vaccine with ALFQ adjuvant for immediate clinical testing 

  • Nonhuman primate and small animal studies of SpFN and other vaccine approaches to prevent COVID 

  • Elucidation of the neuropathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 infection 

  • Leveraging clinical trial sites in Africa and Asia to support COVID epidemiology and candidate vaccine efficacy trials 


“Our decades of work to understand and combat HIV and other emerging viruses such as Ebola and Zika have provided us with a robust history of experience, infrastructure, and strong collaborative networks to be able to run at unprecedented speed to combat COVID-19,” states Dr. Vasan. “We’re throwing all we’ve got at this in our best effort to achieve lasting control over this pandemic.” 

Sandhya Vasan obtained her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before completing her MD at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard Medical School.  After a residency in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, she worked as a Henry Luce Foundation Fellow at the Singaporean Communicable Disease Centre and the National University of Singapore. Dr. Vasan conducted Phase 1 clinical trials of HIV vaccines and adjuvants and related immunology research at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and the Rockefeller University from 2002-2011.  

She joined the MHRP and spent 7 years at the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences conducting clinical trials in HIV pathogenesis, treatement, and vaccine development while also establishing a nonhuman primate research laboratory. She returned to the US to join MHRP as the Associate Director for HIV Vaccine Research in 2018, and in 2019 was selected to lead the HJF component for both MHRP and EIDB.   

HJF has provided operational and scientific support for MHRP through a cooperative agreement since 1986. EIDB was spun off from MHRP in 2018 to address military relevant emerging infectious disease threats and added to the cooperative agreement between WRAIR and HJF, on which Dr. Vasan serves as the Principal Investigator.