His Work and Passion
Phillipe Nyambi, Associate Professor in the Pathology Department at NYUSoM and Research Microbiologist at the VAMC, received his M.Sc degree in Virology at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria (1988), and his Ph.D. degree of Applied Biology/Virology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium (1996). He joined the laboratory of Dr. Susan Zolla-Pazner at the Department of Pathology, NYUSoM in 1996 where he completed his postdoctoral training and started his very successful career as an independent researcher. Besides his work as a renowned HIV scientist, supervisor and reviewer, he was able to set up a cohort of HIV infected individuals from the supposed epicenter of the HIV disease, Cameroon, which is unique of its kind and a major achievement. Analyses of this cohort have led to numerous important findings and will be a precious source for future HIV research.
Dr. Nyambi's journey in research really started in 1998 with his first R21 grant from NIH which was focused on identifying epitopes that define serotypes of HIV-1. He also left deep impact on genetic and antigenic relatedness of HIV-1 that became one of his major goals of research. Over the past 15 years, his lab has conducted studies characterizing HIV-1 viral diversity and the evolution of HIV strains infecting individuals in Cameroon, China, and the USA. Dr. Nyambi’s work was the first to demonstrate the broad HIV-1 diversity in rural villages in Cameroon where the transpecies transmission of HIV-1 first occurred. His work has also identified two new HIV-1 recombinant viruses, CRFcpx36 and CRFcpx37. The studies on B and non-B clade HIV-1 variants among US veterans and immigrants revealed that non-B clades are the predominant HIV-1 variants among immigrants while clade B variants prevail in US veterans. Moreover, he could show that non-B clade HIV-1 variants from immigrants are more diverse immunologically than isolates from US veterans and as a consequence, belong to more diverse immunotypes. Further studies showed that HIV-1 isolates belonging to the same HIV-1 immunotype are more similar to one another in terms of neutralization properties than isolates belonging to heterologous HIV-1 immunotypes.
In order to study the biologic relevance of HIV-1 recombination, his work has analyzed the replicative capacity of recombinant viruses versus their parental strains; this has demonstrated that the CRF02_AG recombinant subgroup, commonly present in Cameroon, has a higher replicative capacity than its parental subtypes A and G, and this discovery has independently been confirmed by other labs. His lab was the first one to demonstrate that superinfection with a discordant HIV-1 subtype helps to boost the host humoral immune response in generating neutralizing antibodies against diverse HIV-1 strains. This observation was also confirmed by other studies. These results had very important implication on HIV vaccine research and suggested that a good immunogen in a cocktail vaccine must be comprised of diverse genomic variants.
Dr. Nyambi published over 60 articles in peer reviewed journals, has been awarded as PI of 5 grants from the NIH and 2 Merit Review grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was an Editorial Board member of the journal ISRN Immunology. Dr. Nyambi served as ad-hoc reviewer for several journals and different study sections at the NIH.
Dr. Nyambi was the main organizer of training workshops in Cameroon on new methods and strategies for diagnosing HIV-1 infection in regions where diverse HIV-1 subtypes and recombinant viruses predominate. These workshops were organized annually under the auspices of NYU’s NIH-sponsored Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program on which he was a Co-PI and during the last three years with funding from the HIV Training Grant of which he was the Director.
His Early years:
Dr. Nyambi was born in Great Soppo Buea in the South West Province. He is the oldest of 8 children born to Mr. Moses Nyambi and Mama Rose Mandi. He spent most of his youthful years in Buea where he attended the Cameroon Baptist Convention Primary school, then he continued to Baptist Boys Secondary School where he obtained his Ordinary levels. He attended high school in Bamenda at Cameroon Protestant College Bali where he obtained his GCE Advanced Levels. Phillipe went onto pursue higher education at the University of Ibadan Nigeria. He majored in Microbiology for his Bachelors and then Virology for his Masters degree. Phillipe then returned to Cameroon and began a search for professional opportunities. He went to Yaounde and while applying to various laboratories and universities, he met Dr. Peter Ndumbe who offered him and internship in his research lab at CUSS yaounde which is the Medical college for Cameroon. Dr. Ndumbe mentored him for several years and eventually made it possible for Phillipe go to Belgium and pursue a PHD. While in Yaounde, Phillipe met Pamella Tah whom he married in August of 1991. Together they moved to Belgium and continued their education. While in school they had their first daughter, Mandi Nyambi who was born in Antwerpen Belgium.
Upon completion of his doctoral program he was offered a position in the lab of Dr. Zoller Pazner at New York University.
Dr. Nyambi is one of 8 children so his seven siblings survive him. His parents both survive him and are resident at Great Soppo Buea. Dr. Nyambi is Married to Pamella Tah and together they have raised 4 amazing children: Mandi Nyambi - 22 yrs, Awa Nyambi - 18 yrs, Wesley Nyambi - 14 yrs, Vanessa Nyambi- 6 yrs. Dr. Nyambi has a close knit group of friends dating back to their years at BBSS and CBC. He leaves behind his family, friends, Greenburgh community, the Oshie community and the research world to mourn him.
Rest in Peace
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