Amelia Escolano, Ph.D.

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Wistar Institute Assistant Professor of Microbiology
Department: Microbiology

Contact information
The Wistar Institute
36th & Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: 215-898-3703
Lab: 215-898-3702
B.S. (Biochemistry)
University of Oviedo, Spain, 2005.
M.S. (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)
Centro de Biologia Molecular Severo Ochoa, Madrid, Spain, 2007.
Ph.D. (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)
Spanish Center for Cardiovascular Research and Autonoma University of Madrid, Spain., 2014.
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Description of Research Expertise


An efficacious antibody-based vaccine against HIV-1 should elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) targeting conserved epitopes of its Envelope (Env) protein. Our previous work showed that common vaccination strategies using repeated boost immunization with the same Env immunogen could not elicit bNAbs. Instead, a new form of vaccination involving sequential immunization was required to elicit highly mutated anti-HIV-1 bNAbs. The reported sequential immunization protocol involved prime immunization with an engineered Env immunogen followed by a series of four additional immunizations with Env immunogens that gradually resembled the native-looking Env. This immunization protocol elicited bNAbs in an immunoglobulin knock-in mouse model with a monoclonal B cell repertoire, i.e. with B cells carrying a single antibody, the inferred germline precursor of a human bNAb (Escolano et al, Cell, 2016). These immunization experiments were first showing that anti HIV-1 bNAbs can be elicited by vaccination and fueled subsequent vaccine design studies. However, despite this significant achievement, no reported vaccination protocol has been able to elicit protective levels of bNAbs in wild type organisms with a polyclonal B cell repertoire.

Wild type organisms mount polyclonal antibody responses when encountering complex antigens such as the HIV-1 Env protein. A predominant component of antibody responses elicited by Env immunogens are antibodies to non-conserved or strain-specific epitopes of Env, with no potential to broadly neutralize HIV-1. These antibodies significantly interfere with the development of bNAbs.

The Escolano lab investigates the humoral and cellular immune responses to sequential immunization aiming to establish guidelines for vaccine design. We design and evaluate immunogens and sequential immunization strategies to elicit anti HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibodies in wild type organisms. Our specific goal is to design approaches to modulate the immunodominance properties of vaccine candidates aiming to focus the antibody responses to the conserved, neutralization sensitive epitopes of Env.
Using state-of-the-art technologies for single cell analysis and different animal models including wild type mice, rhesus macaques and a series of recently generated immunoglobulin knock-in and reporter mice, we investigate the process of antibody maturation and the evolution of the different immune compartments upon sequential immunization.


Our laboratory has vast experience designing strategies to isolate antigen specific B cells from wild type mice, humanized mice and non-human primates, and to clone their antibody genes.
Antibody cloning from single B cells is an essential tool for characterizing humoral immune responses and obtaining valuable therapeutic and analytical reagents. Antibody cloning from individuals with high serologic titers to HIV-1, Influenza, Malaria, ZIKV and SARS-CoV2 has led to new insights that inform vaccine design efforts.
We have designed cost-effective protocols to identify and purify single antigen-specific B cells, and subsequently clone and produce monoclonal antibodies.
We are using the newly developed methods to isolate and characterize anti HIV-1 specific B cells from naïve and immunized mice, from vaccinated or Simian-Human Immunodeficiency Virus (SHIV)-infected rhesus macaques and from humans. Remarkably, using our approach, we have isolated one of the first anti HIV-1 bNAbs from a SHIV infected rhesus macaque, validating the use of macaques as preclinical models for HIV-1 vaccination studies.
The Escolano laboratory uses this state-of-the-art methodology to isolate antibodies against viruses including cancer-associated viruses, bacteria and tumor neoantigens. Characterization of the isolated antibodies is providing very valuable information to guide vaccine design efforts and the development of new preventative and therapeutic approaches.


The use of animal models in biomedical research has been crucial to investigate the mechanisms of human pathophysiology, to evaluate candidate interventions and to predict treatment outcomes in humans. Mice, rabbits and non-human primates (NHPs) have been extensively used by the scientific community to examine the cellular and humoral responses to infection and vaccination. Unfortunately, none of these models faithfully recapitulates the setting of a human immune response.
Humanized mice, genetically engineered to recapitulate different aspects of the human humoral and/or cellular immune response, are highly desirable. In particular, human immunoglobulin knock-in mice (Ig KI mice) are remarkably valuable for vaccine development and drug discovery, as well as for basic immunology studies related to the analysis of B and T cell responses to infection, vaccination, autoimmunity or cancer. However, current methods to produce Ig KI mice are inefficient, labor-intensive and require special equipment and expertise to perform zygote microinjections.
We have developed a novel technology to efficiently and more easily generate monoclonal Ig KI mice using CRISPR/Cas9. The new technology very notably simplifies the mouse production process, increases knock-in efficiency, and reduces breeding time, hence, it accelerates the mouse production process and reduces costs.
Interestingly, this methodology can be adapted to introduce other genetic modifications in the mouse genome including gene insertions and deletions, thus being of great value to other scientific disciplines. The new technology is especially valuable for engineering events involving insertions of long DNA fragments or genetic modification of more than one loci. We are currently using the new technology for high-throughput production of Ig KI mice, and for the production of other KI and knock-out mice to support vaccine research.

Selected Publications

Escolano, A., Steichen, J. M., Dosenovic, P., Kulp, D. W., Golijanin, J., Sok, D., Freund, N. T., Gitlin, A. D., Oliveira, T., Araki, T., Lowe, S., Chen, S. T., Heinemann, J., Yao, K. H., Georgeson, E., Saye-Francisco, K. L., Gazumyan, A., Adachi, Y., Kubitz, M., Burton, D. R., Schief, W. R., Nussenzweig, M. C.: Sequential Immunization Elicits Broadly Neutralizing Anti-HIV-1 Antibodies in Ig Knockin Mice. Cell 166(6): 1445-1458 e12, 2016.

Steichen, J. M., Kulp, D. W., Tokatlian, T., Escolano, A., Dosenovic, P., Stanfield, R. L., McCoy, L. E., Ozorowski, G., Hu, X., Kalyuzhniy, O., Briney, B., Schiffner, T., Garces, F., Freund, N. T., Gitlin, A. D., Menis, S., Georgeson, E., Kubitz, M., Adachi, Y., Jones, M., Mutafyan, A. A., Yun, D. S., Mayer, C. T., Ward, A. B., Burton, D. R., Wilson, I. A., Irvine, D. J., Nussenzweig, M. C., Schief, W. R.: HIV Vaccine Design to Target Germline Precursors of Glycan-Dependent Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies. Immunity 45(3): 483-496, 2016.

Escolano, A., Gristick, H. B., Abernathy, M. E., Merkenschlager, J., Gautam, R., Oliveira, T. Y., Pai, J., West, A. P., Jr., Barnes, C. O., Cohen, A. A., Wang, H., Golijanin, J., Yost, D., Keeffe, J. R., Wang, Z., Zhao, P., Yao, K. H., Bauer, J., Nogueira, L., Gao, H., Voll, A. V., Montefiori, D. C., Seaman, M. S., Gazumyan, A., Silva, M., McGuire, A. T., Stamatatos, L., Irvine, D. J., Wells, L., Martin, M. A., Bjorkman, P. J., Nussenzweig, M. C.: Immunization expands B cells specific to HIV-1 V3 glycan in mice and macaques. Nature 570(7762): 468-473, 2019.

Escolano, A., Gristick, H. B., Gautam, R., DeLaitsch, A. T., Abernathy, M. E., Yang, Z., Wang, H., Hoffmann, M. A. G., Nishimura, Y., Wang, Z., Koranda, N., Kakutani, L. M., Gao, H., Gnanapragasam, P. N. P., Raina, H., Gazumyan, A., Cipolla, M., Oliveira, T. Y., Ramos, V., Irvine, D. J., Silva, M., West, A. P., Jr., Keeffe, J. R., Barnes, C. O., Seaman, M. S., Nussenzweig, M. C., Martin, M. A., Bjorkman, P. J.: Sequential immunization of macaques elicits heterologous neutralizing antibodies targeting the V3-glycan patch of HIV-1 Env. Sci Transl Med 13(621): eabk1533, 2021.

Escolano, A., Dosenovic, P., Nussenzweig, M. C.: Progress toward active or passive HIV-1 vaccination. J Exp Med 214(1): 3-16, 2017.

Wang, Z., Merkenschlager, J., Chen, S. T., Oliveira, T. Y., Ramos, V., Gordon, K. M., Yao, K. H., Jankovic, M., Nussenzweig, M., Escolano, A.: Isolation of single HIV-1 Envelope specific B cells and antibody cloning from immunized rhesus macaques. J Immunol Methods 478: 112734, 2020.

Wang, Z., Barnes, C. O., Gautam, R., Cetrulo Lorenzi, J. C., Mayer, C. T., Oliveira, T. Y., Ramos, V., Cipolla, M., Gordon, K. M., Gristick, H. B., West, A. P., Nishimura, Y., Raina, H., Seaman, M. S., Gazumyan, A., Martin, M., Bjorkman, P. J., Nussenzweig, M. C., Escolano, A.: A broadly neutralizing macaque monoclonal antibody against the HIV-1 V3-Glycan patch. Elife 9, 2020.

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Last updated: 08/30/2022
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