Cell Virology and Immunology (VIC)
The team studies humoral immune responses against pathogens, mainly HIV and SARS-CoV-2, so as to understand mechanisms of protection and develop new vaccines and therapeutic antibodies
Vaccines and immunotherapies
Accumulated experience in immune system studies has enabled the group to focus on new vaccines and therapeutic antibodies against viruses such as HIV and SARS-CoV-2. Regarding HIV, the group studies antibodies and immunomodulators with the ultimate goal of developing protective vaccines and therapeutic strategies, and so contribute to functional cure or eradication of HIV. It focuses especially on the envelope glycoprotein (Env) as the main target of humoral responses. Env is recognized by the neutralizing antibodies that block viral infectivity, and its functions and the implications for immune responses are crucial as its high variability is a main roadblock in developing HIV vaccines based on identifying optimal immunogens.
The group has also developed a virus-like particle platform to produce highly immunogenic HIV vaccines that generate protective antibodies, and is actively working on the development of therapeutic antibodies. These strategies developed for HIV have also been adapted to fight other viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, for which the group has designed new vaccines and antibodies to increase protection against COVID-19.
Humoral immune response
The group studies the humoral immune response, which is mainly immunity as mediated by antibodies, and has developed a technique to analyse neutralizing antibodies that enables detection, quantification, and monitoring of the protective immune response against viruses. These advances have been successfully applied to SARS-CoV-2, for which the group has developed a functional assay to evaluate neutralizing antibodies against different variants of this virus. The group has also characterized immune responses to natural infection and to available vaccines, to better understand the ability to block new variants and the durability of protection. Such data are instrumental to the design of new vaccines and therapeutic antibodies.