The development of novel technologies of immuno-therapies holds great promise for potential future treatment of hitherto difficult to cure viral diseases and tumours. It is to be anticipated that such technologies will provide the physician with potent novel therapies and will be the basis for the establishment and growth of new biotech SMEs. This proposal suggests therefore to combine research work on natural killer (NK) cell immune defences and therapies, with training in bio-informatics and issues of patent applications and management of the biotech business.
The research part will deal with mechanisms of the innate immune defence used to control viral infections and tumours. It will focus on receptors used by NK and some myeloid cells to interact with surf ace structures exposed by virally infected and/or tumour cells. Firstly, it will investigate the mechanisms developed by viruses and tumours to avoid or subvert immune defences. In this respect viruses have evolved a large number of genes, which function to interfere with the expression of ligands that could be used by NK cells to trace infected cells. Similarly, many of the same or related target molecules can be found down regulated in tumour cells. Secondly, we will use the molecules recognized by receptors on NK and myeloid cells to develop technologies to boost immune reactions.
This will be done by:
i) by specific reagents directing immune cells to the infected/malignant target cells and
ii) by genetically engineering NK cells to provide them with increased activities.
We intend to train the students of this RTN in all techniques of immuno-technology including wider aspects of molecular medicine by enrolling them in the established MD/PhD programs of the respective Universities. An exchange of students between the different partners will be organized to ensure that every participant will be trained at different places. Training in bio-informatics using the NK and leukocyte receptor complexes of the human genome.
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