Basic Research

A detailed understanding of the antibody response against infectious pathogens is critical to inform on successful vaccination strategies and to investigate novel immune-mediated therapy approaches. To this end, we use advanced protocols for the isolation of neutralizing antibodies and for the analysis of the B cell receptor repertoire. By implementing new techniques including single droplet analysis, we aim to identify novel antibodies that target pathogens, such HIV-1, HCV, and the Ebola virus.

HIV-1-directed broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs)

A small fraction (around 1%) of HIV-1-infected individuals is generating highly potent broadly neutralizing antibodies. These antibodies can protect from (S)HIV infection in animal models and have been demonstrated to suppress viremia in HIV-1-infected individuals. In our laboratory, we investigate the characteristics and the development of HIV-1 neutralizing antibodies to establish new approaches for HIV-1 vaccination and HIV-1 therapy.

Antibodies targeting the Ebola virus

Ebola virus disease is an emerging infection that has caused more than 11,000 deaths in the latest outbreak from 2014 to 2016. Despite promising first attempts to establish an effective prevention modality, no FDA-approved vaccine or therapy is available to date. Neutralizing antibodies targeting the surface-exposed viral glycoprotein (GP) have been shown to prevent infection in non-human primates and are able to clear infection up to 5 days post challenge. Our laboratory works on identifying novel GP-directed antibodies for the prevention and treatment of Ebola virus disease.

Investigating the HCV antibody response

HCV infection remains a major burden with a prevalence of 170 million infections worldwide and an incidence of 2 million new infections per year. Chronically HCV-infected individuals can progress to liver cirrhosis and can develop hepatocellular carcinoma. Recently, directly acting antiviral substances (DAAs) have become available and treatment achieves sustained viral response of above 90%. However, high treatment costs hamper the application in low income areas and only a small fraction (<15%) of HCV-infected individuals is effectively treated. Together with DZIF collaborators, we investigate the development of a protective HCV vaccine.