Who We Are & What We Do
“Seeing an end to ocular, oro-facial and genital herpes via an innovative mucosal vaccine”
“Cancer becomes a leading and redoubtable killer in both developed and developing countries. We are committed to making a difference, by focusing today’s research on developing tomorrow’s cancer vaccines.”
The Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology (LCMI), headed by Dr. Lbachir BenMohamed, is developing a new class of human herpes vaccines based on an innovative strategy for the discovery of “asymptomatic” epitopes that induce protective T cell immunity. LCMI employs a proprietary approach that mimics the natural immune response to comprehensively screen for herpes antigens that are protective across diverse human populations. LCMI has demonstrated preclinical proof-of-concept with vaccines for herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2) infection and disease that affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The same strategy is also being applied in the lab to develop vaccines against cancers. The team expects to begin clinical trials for its lead research program, a therapeutic vaccine for HSV-1 and HSV-2, within the next few years.
Current work at The Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology is divided into four major research projects: Project 1. Utilizes human leukocyte antigen (HLA) transgenic mouse, guinea pig and rabbit models of ocular and genital herpes to study host immune defense mechanisms and disease development and for pre-clinical assessment of a T cell epitope-based vaccine candidates. These in vivo immunogenicity and protective efficacy studies are preceded by in vitro antigenic evaluation of human immune responses to candidate vaccines. This includes comparative studies of immune responses from asymptomatic individuals (people that are seropositive for herpes but never develop any ocular, oro-facial or genital herpes disease) to those from symptomatic individuals (people that are seropositive for herpes and often develop some type herpes disease). Project 2. Evaluates the immune evasion mechanisms by which HSV-1 and HSV-2 employ their acute or latent genes to interfere with the host immune system during acute and latent viral infections. Project 3. investigates how HSV infection affects HIV infection and immunity, and vice versa. Project 4. Utilizes animal model of cancer to evaluate candidate vaccines and immunotherapeutic molecules against cancers.