Research Foci

Based on challenges of high clinical and societal relevance and the special competencies of its cooperation partners, HZI has established Research Foci (RF), providing a synergistic, dynamic and flexible framework for the programme.

The Research Foci integrate know-how from different areas of HZI’s research, namely from all three Topics, and can thus address research questions using expertise on pathogens, immune systems and anti-infectives. They offer the flexibility to meet new challenges, e.g. by establishing a new Research Focus when a new urgent problem emerges. Within each Research Focus, HZI scientists pursue the transfer of knowledge from the lab to clinical or pharmaceutical application.

Currently, researchers at HZI and its partner institutions cooperate in seven Research Foci addressing the clinically relevant fields of:

Respiratory Viral Infections (RVIR)

The spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 strikingly illustrates the global health threat posed by respiratory viral infections. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, viruses affecting the human respiratory system have caused several global disease outbreaks, such as the annual influenza epidemic.

HZI's Research Focus RVIR investigates infections caused by the influenza A virus, corona viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Together with university partners, HZI scientists identify risk factors and markers for severe forms of these infections. Another focus is on co-infections, i.e. cases in which the host organism has to fend off both bacteria and viruses. 

HZI researchers use the insights gained on these types of infection to explore novel approaches for diagnostics and interventions. They develop antibody and drug-based therapies as well as vaccination strategies. Using bioinformatics and experimental methods, they identify and validate predictive biomarkers and develop recommendations for optimizing seasonal vaccines. For this purpose, new digital health tools for monitoring disease outbreaks are developed and combined with mathematical modelling.

The most important questions for the Research Focus RVIR are:

  • How can the spread of emerging pathogens with pandemic potential be predicted?
  • How can outbreaks of viral respiratory infections be controlled and contained? 
  • What novel prevention and treatment methods are effective against respiratory viruses?

Speaker of the RF RVIR: Dr. Antoine-Emmanuel Saliba
Deputy Speaker: Prof. Dr. Dunja Bruder


Most relevant publications

Respiratory Viral Infections (RVIR)

Tang BM, Shojaei M, Teoh S, Meyers A, Ho J, Ball TB, Keynan Y, Pisipati A, Kumar A, Eisen DP, Lai K, Gillett M, Santram R, Geffers R, Schreiber J, Mozhui K, Huang S, Parnell GP, Nalos M, Holubova M, Chew T, Booth D, Kumar A, McLean A, Schughart K. Neutrophils-related host factors associated with severe disease and fatality in patients with influenza infection. Nat Commun. 2019 Jul 31;10(1):3422. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-11249-y. 

Zheng X, Oduro JD, Boehme JD, Borkner L, Ebensen T, Heise U, Gereke M, Pils MC, Krmpotic A, Guzmán CA, Bruder D, Čičin-Šain L. Mucosal CD8+ T cell responses induced by an MCMV based vaccine vector confer protection against influenza challenge. PLoS Pathog. 2019 Sep 16;15(9):e1008036. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1008036. eCollection 2019 Sep. 

Stegemann-Koniszewski S, Jeron A, Gereke M, Geffers R, Kröger A, Gunzer M, Bruder D. Alveolar Type II Epithelial Cells Contribute to the Anti-Influenza A Virus Response in the Lung by Integrating Pathogen- and Microenvironment-Derived Signals. mBio. 2016 May 3;7(3):e00276-16. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00276-16. 

Zhang L, Lin D, Sun X, Curth U, Drosten C, Sauerhering L, Becker S, Rox K und Hilgenfeld R. Cyrstal structure of SARS-CoV-2 main protease provides a basis for design of improved alpha-ketoamide inhibitors. Science (2020). doi: 10.1126/science.abb340. 

Schulte-Schrepping J, Reusch N, Paclik D, Baßler K, Schlickeiser S, Zhang B, Krämer B, Krammer T, Brumhard S, Bonaguro L, De Domenico E, Wendisch D, Grasshoff M, Kapellos TS, Beckstette M, Pecht T, Saglam A, Dietrich O, Mei HE, Schulz AR, Conrad C, Kunkel D, Vafadarnejad E, Xu CJ, Horne A, Herbert M, Drews A, Thibeault C, Pfeiffer M, Hippenstiel S, Hocke A, Müller-Redetzky H, Heim KM, Machleidt F, Uhrig A, Bosquillon de Jarcy L, Jürgens L, Stegemann M, Glösenkamp CR, Volk HD, Goffinet C, Landthaler M, Wyler E, Georg P, Schneider M, Dang-Heine C, Neuwinger N, Kappert K, Tauber R, Corman V, Raabe J, Kaiser KM, Vinh MT, Rieke G, Meisel C, Ulas T, Becker M, Geffers R, Witzenrath M, Drosten C, Suttorp N, von Kalle C, Kurth F, Händler K, Schultze JL, Aschenbrenner AC, Li Y, Nattermann J, Sawitzki B, Saliba AE, Sander LE; Deutsche COVID-19 OMICS Initiative (DeCOI). Severe COVID-19 Is Marked by a Dysregulated Myeloid Cell Compartment. Cell. 2020 Sep 17;182(6):1419-1440.e23. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.08.001. Epub 2020 Aug 5.

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