Main scientific focus areas
Anti-viral immunity (HIV virology and immunity)
The major interest of our lab is the understanding of the specific immunity mounted following pathogen infection, with a particular focus on HIV. Our goal is to define correlates of protective immunity against HIV infection. The identification of cellular immune parameters important for virus control will help us to design vaccines able to control HIV infection and eventually to prevent or cure HIV infection.
Previous studies in our lab and others show that CD8 T-cells are a major player in the control of HIV infection. We therefore try to better understand their role at the molecular level as well as at the cellular level.
Basic HIV research
The research activity of our unit is focused on the characterization of products of antisense transcription in a region of the env gene encompassing gp120 and gp41 (HIV antisense protein, ASP). In addition, we are investigating the mechanism(s) underlying genetic variation in gp120 hypervariable regions V1-V5 and HIV-1 viral tropism.
The mucosal immune system forms a highly integrated network of host cells and molecular factors organized in lymphoid tissues and mucous membrane-associated epithelia. Immune and innate components contribute to the development of local immune responses, including Th1 and Th2 cells, plasma cells producing secretory IgA, cytokines, defensins. The mucosal immune system is unique in that it can provide both positive and negative signals for the induction and regulation of immune responses in mucosal and systemic compartments following mucosal antigen exposure.
Once thought to be a site deprived of immune reaction due to the blood brain barrier, it is now well-established that the brain can be targeted by the immune system. This encounter can be either beneficial (immune surveillance against micro-organisms) or detrimental (auto-immune attack such as in multiple sclerosis). The neuroimmunology is the specialty that studies in detail the complex interactions between the immune system (either innate or adaptive) and the nervous system.
T cell mediated immunity and tolerance
The activities of our laboratory are focused on performing basic and translational research applied to infectious diseases, malignant tumors and immune tolerance. We are concentrating on investigating T cell- mediated immune responses as they are a key component of naturally occurring immune protection against viral and many bacterial pathogens and against tumors.
A major hurdle to solid organ transplantation is graft rejection caused by the immune response mounted by the host against the donor HLA antigens. Immunosuppressive drugs can efficiently prevent acute graft rejection however this can cause numerous side effects (increased risk of infections, tumors, cardiovascular diseases…) and can only partially prevent chronic graft dysfunction which ultimately leads to graft lost. Understanding the mechanisms behind graft rejection and possible ways to prevent it are the focus of our research.
Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the world’s leading causes of mortality with 1.5 million deaths annually. With the “STOP TB Strategy” from the WHO, sustained improvements through research to develop new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines are some of the main focuses in order to eliminate TB by 2050. There is a need to better understand cellular immunity and particularly CD4 T-cells which have a central role in the control of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection.
Vaccine design and development
Studies carried out previously in our unit characterized the immune response following HIV infection, and enables the design of new vaccines. Over the last 10 years, our lab has developed a platform that has also allowed us to initiate and carry out clinical studies to test these new vaccines.