Our research focus is the study of cellular immunity against viral infections in hosts with compromised immunity. One of our main activities is identifying immunological correlates of relative HIV control and determining how to translate these into rational vaccine designs.
The group has implemented a number of ex vivo immunological analyses in samples of people with HIV, with the aim of identifying regions where the virus is most vulnerable and defining the features (avidity and cross-reactivity) critical for an effective T-cell response to HIV. These studies are complemented with analyses of persons highly exposed to HIV who have remained uninfected and of persons who have been closely monitored since before infection and on to the chronic infection stage. We are studying the evolution of their responses over time and how pre-HIV-infection immunity to other pathogens affects the development of immunity to HIV.
All patient groups also undergo integrated systems biology analyses that combine communicome studies with methylome determination to assess the levels of HIV infection that induce epigenetic changes in genes that encode critical antiviral factors of the host.
In addition to studies directly related to HIV, the group is also studying possible factors governing the evolution of HCV in liver transplant recipients. These include host genetic factors of donors and recipients and immune responses against the re-infecting virus in the transplanted liver as regulated by T-cells. The transplantation model is also used to determine the effects of ablative treatment on pre-transplant conditioning in the repertoire of post-transplant T-cells and how this repertoire contributes to the control of opportunistic infections, including by pathogens such as Epstein-Barr virus and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus, which are associated with post-transplant lymphoproliferative diseases and other malignant disorders.
Christian Brander graduated from the University of Bern in 1994 with a PhD in Immunology, having studied exogenous antigen re-presentation on HLA class and T-cell-mediated hyper-reactivity to penicillin. He spent the next 13 years at Harvard University, where he focused on...