Virology and Innate Immunity

Pathogens (germs) infiltrate our bodies daily but do not remain undetected. They encounter the strong defenses of our immune system, which recognizes invaders and promptly takes appropriate measures. However, many pathogens can produce life-long infections even with an intact immune system. The herpesvirus family is one such group of pathogens. Upon infection, herpesviruses establish a chronic infection and become lifelong companions. 


Prof Dr Melanie Brinkmann

Over a million years herpesviruses have adapted perfectly to the immune system and efficiently outwit the body's defence. We want to decipher the mechanisms herpesviruses apply to escape their elimination.

Melanie Brinkmann

Melanie Brinkmann studied biology at the Georg-August University Göttingen and the Humboldt University Berlin in Germany. During her PhD at the Institute of Virology, Hannover Medical School, Germany, she studied how the tumorvirus Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) manipulates its host. For her postdoctoral time she joined Hidde Ploeghs laboratory at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, which is affiliated with the Massachusettes Institute of Technology in Cambridge, USA. During these four years she worked on highly specialized sentinels of the innate immune system, so called pattern recognition receptors. These cellular receptors play an essential role for the detection of viral infections.

Since July 2010 Melanie Brinkmann is head of the research group “Virology and Innate Immunity” at the HZI.

She received the PhD Award of the Hannover Medical School (2004), for her postdoctoral work she received the Robert-Koch-Postdoc Award (2007), and in 2016 she was awarded with the Science Award of the Signal Transduction Society.

From 2012 to 2018, Melanie Brinkmann was assistant professor at the Institute of Virology at the Hannover Medical School. Since July 2018 she is professor at the Institute of Genetics at the Technische Universität Braunschweig.

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  • How to stop the coronavirus with the Cheesemodel

    Virologist Prof Melanie Brinkmann compares measures against the coronavirus with swiss cheese. No measure is perfect but many measures together could be the key to success.

  • How is the HZI contributing to the management of the coronavirus pandemic?

    Since the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig has focused its research activities on the novel coronavirus. Representative for the diverse research projects at HZI, three scientists present their contributions to coping with the pandemic. Prof Michael Meyer-Hermann is developing mathematical models for the course of the pandemic. Prof Melanie Brinkmann has investigated transmission pathways in a large coronavirus outbreak and shown that the pathogen can be spread via aerosols. Prof Gérard Krause is leading an antibody study to monitor the development of the pandemic and is developing digital tools such as the SORMAS system to support the public health service in pandemic response.

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Contribution in the HZI staff magazine "InFact"

The Super Striker: How herpesviruses dribble out the immune system

If we imagine viruses and human immune cells as opposing soccer teams, we would observe a spectacular game: The viruses have barely gained possession of the ball and they are already storming down the field towards their goal. If the defence players and goalie of the opposing team, the human immune cells, do not reach their positions quickly enough the viruses’ goal cannot be prevented and a human is infected.

You can read the article here

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