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Announcing the Recipients of the 2023 CFAR New Investigator Award (NIA)

The UW/Fred Hutch Center for AIDS Research is pleased to announce the 2023 New Investigator Award (NIA) recipients. The purpose of this award program is to encourage early-stage investigators (at a senior stage of training or recently independent) to conduct independent research, acquire preliminary data to use for exogenous grant submissions, publish, receive mentorship, and write one or more grants to obtain funding to continue their HIV/AIDS research careers. Recipients are awarded up to $70,000 total (direct costs) for 2-year non-interdisciplinary projects, or $80,000 total for 2-year interdisciplinary projects.

Congratulations to our 2023 CFAR NIA Awardees, Dr. Michelle Bulterys of the University of Washington, Dr. Delphine Depierreux of Fred Hutch, Dr. Obinna Ekwunife of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Dr. Christian Gallardo of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Dr. Joy Githua of Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI/CRDR), and Dr. Bo Zhang of Fred Hutch!


Michelle Bulterys, PhD, MPH

Project Title: SHARP: A Study of Healthy and Responsive Parenting

Mentors: Andrew Mujugira (UW), Kathleen Prowis (Harvard), Grace John-Stewart (UW), Joseph Makhema (Botswana Harvard Health Partnership), Kathryn Barker (UC San Diego)

Michelle Bulterys (PhD, MPH) is a postdoctoral researcher with the University of Washington Department of Global Health and the Botswana Harvard Health Partnership, and collaborates closely with UNAIDS. Her training is in epidemiology, cultural anthropology, and maternal child health, and she works on multi-disciplinary research projects with her primary mentors, Drs. Grace John-Stewart and Connie Celum. Dr. Bulterys’ current mixed methods research explores couples’ relationship dynamics, father involvement, and child neurodevelopment among families affected by HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Her CFAR New Investigator Award will adapt and pilot test an evidence-based, father-to-father mentorship intervention to support young fathers affected by HIV in Botswana.

LinkedIn: Dr. Michelle Bulterys


Delphine Depierreux, PhD

Project Title: A Paradigm Shift: Human Natural Killer Cell Memory Against HIV

Mentors: Julie Overbaugh (Fred Hutch), Catherine Blish (Stanford)

Dr. Delphine Depierre is a postdoctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, supported by the Washington Research Foundation. She earned her Ph.D. in viral immunology from the University of Cambridge, UK. Currently, her research focuses on both broadly neutralizing and non-neutralizing antibodies against HIV and SARS-CoV-2. With the CFAR New Investigator Award, she will characterize the natural killer cell response to HIV, aiming to uncover whether their memory properties can be harnessed to develop novel therapeutic strategies.


Obinna Ekwunife, PhD, MPharm

Project Title: Enhancing PrEP Access for At-Risk Young People through Pharmacy-delivered PrEP in Nigeria

Mentors: Arianna Means (UW)

Dr. Obinna Ekwunife is a health economist and implementation scientist, serving as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University at Buffalo. He underwent postdoctoral training at Harvard School of Public Health and Fred Hutch Cancer Center, where he investigated strategies and outcomes of HIV PrEP delivery in high-incidence populations. His recent work in Nigeria, funded by CFAR New Investigator Award, aims at exploring the potential of private community pharmacies as a novel avenue for PrEP delivery, particularly targeting young individuals at high risk of HIV acquisition to improve accessibility.

LinkedIn: Dr. Obinna Ekwunife


Christian Gallardo, PhD, MBS

Project Title: Discovery of Isoform-specific HIV-1 vRNA structured motifs via single molecule long-read sequencing

Mentors: Bruce Torbett (UW)

Dr. Christian Gallardo is a Viral Genomics Researcher and Senior Staff Scientist at the Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. His expertise is the development and end-to-end implementation of cutting-edge long-read RNA-Sequencing approaches to study host-pathogen interfaces of therapeutic relevance. The goal of Dr. Gallardo’s New Investigator Award is to use single-molecule long-read sequencing to discover HIV RNA structures that correlate with viral reactivation in latently infected cells. He plans to use these findings to establish a research program to further explore the role HIV RNA structures may play in viral post-transcriptional regulation.

LinkedIn: Dr. Christian Gallardo

X (formerly Twitter): Dr. Christian Gallardo


Joy Githua, MBChB, MSc

Project Title: A longitudinal study assessing structural and functional lung changes in children diagnosed with TB

Mentors: Sylvia LaCourse (UW), Videlis Nduba (KEMRI/CRDR), Jerry Zifodya (Tulane), Engi Attia (UW)

Dr. Joy Githua, a medical doctor based in Kenya, serves as an early clinical research scientist at the Kenya Medical Research Institute-Centre for Respiratory Disease Research, where she leads a pediatric diagnostic study under the mentorship of Dr. Sylvia LaCourse. With an MSc in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, she is concurrently pursuing her doctorate in infectious disease and tropical medicine. Her research focus, supported by the New Investigator Award, is on post-TB lung disease (PTLD), aiming to understand its trajectory and associated risk factors with the goal of informing strategies for the prevention, early detection, and management of PTLD, ultimately aiming to enhance the well-being of children.

LinkedIn: Dr. Joy Githua


Bo Zhang, PhD

Project Title: Modeling the per-exposure efficacy of immune-based therapies for HIV-1 prevention

Mentors: Peter Gilbert (Fred Hutch), Larry Corey (Fred Hutch), Yunda Huang (Fred Hutch)

Dr. Bo Zhang is an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. He obtained his PhD from the Department of Statistics at the University of Pennsylvania. He is broadly interested in biostatistics, public health, and infectious diseases research. He plans to develop a mathematical model to predict the clinical efficacy of monoclonal antibody therapies for HIV prevention based on the data from the Antibody Mediated Prevention Trials. He plans to use the findings to better aid the design of future HIV prevention trials.

Fred Hutch Faculty Profile: Dr. Bo Zhang

Dr. Bo Zhang’s Website


To learn more about about the CFAR New Investigator Award, click here or contact us at