In 1981, Dr. Zolla-Pazner was among the first scientists to describe the immunologic abnormalities of patients presenting with Kaposi’s sarcoma associated with a then-mysterious illness. She provided the initial descriptions of immunologic abnormalities in the first patients with AIDS-related Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare infection and identified similar immunologic abnormalities in apparently healthy gay men who later developed AIDS. This work was the first indication of the chilling reality that one-third of gay men in New York City were suffering from a fatal but as-yet-unidentified illness.
In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, the Zolla-Pazner lab described the hyperactivation of B lymphocytes in HIV-infected individuals. This discovery led Dr. Zolla-Pazner to develop methods to generate anti-HIV human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) from blood cells of HIV-infected individuals. Her lab was among the first to isolate and describe human mAbs capable of neutralizing the infectivity of the virus, and later was the first lab to isolate a mAb with strong neutralizing potency targeting a quaternary neutralizing epitope that includes the V2 loop of the HIV envelope protein.