George N. Pavlakis, M.D., Ph.D.

George N. Pavlakis, M.D., Ph.D.

  • Center for Cancer Research
  • National Cancer Institute
Vaccine Branch


The Human Retrovirus Section designed, developed and tested vaccines and immunotherapies for AIDS and cancer. We developed and tested new technologies including nucleic acid delivery methods in vivo, prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines and immunotherapies. We studied the role and application of cytokines in vaccines and cancer immunotherapy.

The Human Retrovirus Section focused on the development of innovative vaccines and immunotherapies for AIDS and cancer based on the understanding of basic mechanisms, and by combining our expertise in molecular biology, virology and immunology.

A major focus was directed towards DNA vaccine development. We aimed to improve DNA vaccine platform technology and develop immunogens able to prevent HIV infection or progression to AIDS. This was achieved by optimizing DNA vaccine expression, delivery, immunogenicity as well as synergy with other vaccine modalities. The strong and effective cellular immunity achieved by optimized DNA is also an important consideration for the expanding field of cancer vaccines. A related focus area was the study of the biology and clinical applications of cytokines in vaccines and immunotherapies for cancer.

This work was a direct extension of our previous studies and represented a translational component of our basic science accomplishments.

Areas of Expertise

Cancer Immunotherapy


Selected Key Publications

Heterodimeric IL-15 delays tumor growth and promotes intratumoral CTL and dendritic cell accumulation by a cytokine network involving XCL1, IFN-γ, CXCL9 and CXCL10

Bergamaschi, C.a, Pandit, H.b, Nagy, B.A.b, Stellas, D.b, Jensen, S.M.c, Bear, J.a, Cam, M.d, Valentin, A.b, Fox, B.A.c, Felber, B.K.a, Pavlakis, G.N.
Full-Text Article
[ Journal Article ]

Co-immunization of DNA and Protein in the Same Anatomical Sites Induces Superior Protective Immune Responses against SHIV Challenge

Felber BK, Lu Z, Hu X, Valentin A, Rosati M, Remmel CAL, Weiner JA, Carpenter MC, Faircloth K, Stanfield-Oakley S, Williams WB, Shen X, Tomaras GD, LaBranche CC, Montefiori D, Trinh HV, Rao M, Alam MS, Vandergrift NA, Saunders KO, Wang Y, Rountree W, Das J, Alter G, Reed SG, Aye PP, Schiro F, Pahar B, Dufour JP, Veazey RS, Marx PA, Venzon DJ, Shaw GM, Ferrari G, Ackerman ME, Haynes BF, Pavlakis GN.
Cell Rep. 31(6): 107624, 2020. [ Journal Article ]

HIV vaccine: better to start together?

Felber BK, Pavlakis GN.
Lancet HIV. 6(11): e724-e725, 2019. [ Journal Article ]

Treatment with native heterodimeric IL-15 increases cytotoxic lymphocytes and reduces SHIV RNA in lymph nodes

Watson DC, Moysi E, Valentin A, Bergamaschi C, Devasundaram S, Fortis SP, Bear J, Chertova E, Bess J Jr, Sowder R, Venzon DJ, Deleage C, Estes JD, Lifson JD, Petrovas C, Felber BK, Pavlakis GN.
PLoS Pathog. 14(2): e1006902, 2018. [ Journal Article ]

Heterodimeric IL15 Treatment Enhances Tumor Infiltration, Persistence, and Effector Functions of Adoptively Transferred Tumor-specific T Cells in the Absence of Lymphodepletion

Ng SSM, Nagy BA, Jensen SM, Hu X, Alicea C, Fox BA, Felber BK, Bergamaschi C, Pavlakis GN.
Clin Cancer Res. 23(11): 2817-30, 2017. [ Journal Article ]