We are interested in how we can use T cells to protect us from viral infections, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. Our research focuses on understanding how T cells coordinate an effective immune memory against virus-infected or tumor cells and how this can be specifically modified for therapeutic purposes. To this end, we seek to enhance and reactivate optimal and long-term T-cell activity in tumor tissues, as well as for antiviral and regulatory T cells in organ transplantation. We are developing technologies that can detect, characterize, and genetically reprogram T-cell specificity, as well as strategies to optimize the quality of T cells. We employ gene-editing technologies to modify T cells to enhance their activity and migration towards the tumor, resistance to immunosuppression and a fine-tuned optimum response. Genetic modifications using genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR-Cas can cause various immunopathologies, thus understanding and preventing these issues is a further research topic of the group. For the evaluation of the novel T-cell products generated in our group, we are developing testing platforms, i.e. a living biobank of organoids, complex 3D self-organizing cultures from healthy and tumor tissues derived from patients. We use physiological models together with state-of-the-art techniques (high-content imaging, spectral flow cytometry, CyTOF, proteomics, and scRNA-seq.) to mimic and characterize the optimal specificity, quality, potency, and longevity of therapeutic T cells. With these approaches, we aim to enhance and reactivate optimal and long-term T-cell activity, and thus provide new treatment options by developing safe and efficacious T-cell products.
- Targeted adaptation of a homing chemokine system for chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell products: CONAN (BMBF-funded)
- T-cell migration and activation in autoimmunity, transplantation, and cancer
- T-cell memory differentiation
- Next generation regulatory and antigen-specific T-cell products
- Gene-editing technologies to modify T cells (e.g. CRISPR-Cas)
- Immunopathology issues related to CRISPR-Cas-mediated gene editing
- Patient-derived (immunocompetent) cancer organoids as testing platform for immunotherapy