SANDER GROUP

Infection Immunology & Vaccinology group

Infectious diseases remain one of the major causes of death world-wide. Emerging infections and the dramatic increase in antibiotic resistance urgently call for novel antimicrobial strategies. Vaccines represent one of the most powerfull, safe and cost-effective tools to fight infectious diseases. However, efficient vaccines against serious infections including Malaria, Tuberculosis, as well as many bacterial causes of pneumonia and hospital infections are still missing.

We aim to understand the  mechanistic basis of protective antimicrobial immunity elicited by vaccination or prior infections. We are particularly interested in the earliest events of the immune response.

Our lab studies the complex interactions between pathogens and the immune system. We have previously reported that immune cells can actively distinguish between viable and dead bacteria. Detection of bacterial viability, which is the quintessential basis for infectivity, triggers robust immune responses. These findings exemplify the immune system’s inherent capacity to carefully scale the microbial threat. Consequently, immune responses are tailored to the microbial threat level. This type of immunological decision making is critically determined by the class and combination of immune receptors which are engaged. Yet the resulting responses also vary greatly between different cell types, and are strongly shaped by the local microenvironment. Thus, we believe that a series of checkpoints that integrate microbial and host signals dictates the immunological outcome of a microbial encounter.

Our goal is to decipher the various risk assessment mechanisms and their impact on immunity. Deeper insight into these pathways will aid in the design of novel vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases.

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