Penn Center for AIDS Research

Sita Awasthi

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Research Associate Professor of Medicine
Department: Medicine

Contact information
522F Johnson Pavilion
3610 Hamilton Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: 215-573-8422
Fax: 215-349-5111
Lab: 215-573-8444
BS (Biology and Chemistry )
Devi Ahilya University, Indore, India , 1982.
MS (Biochemistry)
Devi Ahilya University, Indore, India , 1984.
PhD (Biochemistry)
Devi Ahilya University, Indore, India , 1989.
Post-Graduate Training
Postdoctoral fellow, Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, 1989-1991.
Visiting fellow, NIH/NIAID Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML), Hamilton, Montana, 1991-1993.
Research Associate, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston TX, 1993-1995.
Research Associate II, Cancer Center, Health Science Center, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, 1995-1997.
Postdoctoral fellow, Cancer Biology Department, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 1997-2002.
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Description of Research Expertise

Major focus of my research are
1. Development of genital herpes vaccine
2. Development of new animal models, or modulation of existing animal models to learn and evaluate treatment and prevention options for genital herpes, and HIV co-infections.
3. Point of Care diagnostic for HSV-2 infections for resource limited settings.
4. mRNA-LNP based genital herpes vaccine


Expertise in vaccine development.
Expertise in mRNA vaccine development platform
General virology techniques including, production, purification and titration of virus.
Strategy to create mutant viruses and in-vivo evaluation.
Expertise in development of animal models for evaluation of infectious agents and vaccines.
Developed humanized mouse model for HSV-2 genital infections.
Evaluation of immune responses.
Evaluation and blocking of evasion of host immune response.

Selected Publications

Sita Awasthi, James J. Knox, Angela Desmond, Mohamad-Gabriel Alameh, Brian T. Gaudette, John M. Lubinski, Alexis Naughton, Lauren M. Hook, Kevin P. Egan, Ying K. Tam, Norbert Pardi, David Allman, Eline T. Luning Prak, Michael P. Cancro, Drew Weissman, Gary H. Cohen, and Harvey M. Friedman: Trivalent nucleoside-modified mRNA vaccine yields durable memory B cell protection against genital herpes in preclinical models. Journal of Clinical Investigation 1172/JCI152310, Dec 2021.

LaTourette PC, Awasthi S, Desmond A, Pardi N, Cohen, G H Weissman D, Friedman HM,: Protection against herpes simplex virus type 2 infection in a neonatal murine model using a trivalent nucleoside-modified mRNA in lipid nanoparticle vaccine. Vaccine 38: 7409-7413, November 2020.

Egan K, Hook, LM, Naughton A, Friedman H M, Awasthi S. : Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 Trivalent Protein Vaccine Containing Glycoproteins C, D and E Protects Guinea Pigs Against HSV-1 Genital Infection. Hum Vaccin Immunother online, ahead of publication (eds.). 5: doi: 10.1080/21645515.2020.1749509, September 2020.

Egan KP, Hook, LM, Naughton A M, Pardi N, Awasthi S, Cohen GH Weissman D, Friedman HM: An HSV-2 nucleoside-modified mRNA genital herpes vaccine containing glycoproteins gC, gD, and gE protects mice against HSV-1 genital lesions and latent infection. PLoS Pathogen 16: e1008795, July 2020.

Patel CD, Taylor SA, Mehrbach J, Awasthi S, Friedman H M, Leib DA.: Trivalent Glycoprotein Subunit Vaccine Prevents Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus Mortality and Morbidity. J Virol 94: e02163-19, May 2020.

Awasthi S, Hook LM, Pardi N, Wang F, Myles A, Cancro MP, Cohen GH, Weissman D, Friedman HM: Nucleoside-modified mRNA encoding HSV-2 glycoproteins C, D, and E prevents clinical and subclinical genital herpes. Science Immunology 4: 7083, September 2019.

Bernstein DI, Cardin RD, Bravo FJ, Awasthi S, Lu P, Pullum DA, Dixon DA, Iwasaki A and Friedman HM : Successful application of prime and pull strategy for a therapeutic HSV vaccine. Nature Partnership Journal Vaccines 4: 33, August 2019.

Awasthi S, Hook LM, Swaminathan G, Cairns TM, Brooks B, Smith JS, Ditto NT, Gindy ME, Bett AJ, Espeseth AS, Cohen GH, Friedman HM.: Antibody responses to crucial functional epitopes as a novel approach to assess immunogenicity of vaccine adjuvants. Vaccine Journal. Elsiver, 37: 3770-3778, May 2019.

Hook LM, Awasthi S, Dubin J, Flechtner J, Long D, Friedman HM: A trivalent gC2/gD2/gE2 vaccine for herpes simplex virus generates antibody responses that block immune evasion domains on gC2 better than natural infection. Vaccine 37: 664-669, January 2019.

Hook LM, Cairns TM, Awasthi S, Brooks BD, Ditto NT, Eisenberg RJ, Cohen GH, Friedman HM: Vaccine-induced antibodies to herpes simplex virus glycoprotein D epitopes involved in virus entry and cell-to-cell spread correlate with protection against genital disease in guinea pigs. PLoS Pathogen 14: e1007095, May 2018

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Last updated: 12/02/2021
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