Immunology and Infectious Diseases

The research area Immunology and Infectious Diseases is interested in the cellular and molecular biology of immune cells, as well as the mechanisms of disease initiation and chronicity. The identification of novel disease biomarkers and immune-based therapeutic approaches are also the objectives of several studies.

The Immunology and Infectious Disease area is currently comprised of 30 research groups with a total of around 370 members and is chaired by Prof. Dr. Christoph Hess (head of the Immunobiology lab) and Prof. Dr. Gennaro de Libero (head of the Experimental Immunology lab).

A significant area of focus revolves around understanding the process by which immune cells acquire distinct effector functions, identifying the drivers behind such functional differentiation, and unraveling the relationship between cellular metabolism within immune cells and its influence on the ultimate immune response outcomes. All of these investigations revolve around the pivotal and overarching theme of immune system regulation and its implications for maintaining homeostasis. Moreover, research efforts are dedicated to deciphering specific molecules that activate the immune response, with a specific emphasis on investigating the immune recognition of lipids and cellular metabolites. These studies have unveiled the capability of the immune system to monitor the metabolic integrity of all cells throughout the body, and gave rise to innovative novel approaches to cancer immunotherapy.

Another fundamental immunological focus of this research area is to decipher the mechanisms by which T lymphocytes mature and are selected in the thymus, alongside the pivotal role of thymic epithelial cells. Alterations in these processes may have implications for autoimmunity as well as for competent immune responses. Furthermore, immunity to bacterial and viral infections is an important general topic. Research conducted at the DBM unveils a diverse array of cell populations with unique molecular and functional signatures that are involved in the local immune response, for example in the lung. An important focus is understanding how lymphocytes respond to persistent viral infections and how, in some cases, anti-viral immunity leads to autoimmunity. A particular emphasis is also placed on comprehending the dynamics underlying responses to vaccines by taking advantage of the influenza vaccination and how vaccine-induced immunity is influenced by previous immune responses.

The majority of immune cells are primarily situated within mucosal tissues, playing a crucial role in surveilling and safeguarding these organs. Mucosal immune cells are the subject of research in a number of contexts. Particularly notable is the involvement of innate lymphocytes in regulating mucosal immunity. Exploring the collaborative interactions between these cells and other types of immune cells, as well as the contribution of other innate cell populations to metabolic disorders is an important area of research. Within this research area, researchers at the DBM are also studying the immune response in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma and chronic liver disease, especially regarding the role of inflammation in these diseases, how immunity is locally regulated by monocytes and unconventional T cells, and how this response may predispose to carcinogenesis or fibrotic tissue degeneration. Moreover, the immune response in inflammatory bowel disease and eosinophilic oesophagitis is studied, with a specific emphasis on understanding the contribution of T cells and soluble factors.

Another area of research centers around comprehending the immune response in autoimmune, metabolic, and allergic disorders. This encompasses conditions such as multiple sclerosis, chronic inflammatory rheumatic diseases, and diabetes. The goals of these studies include unraveling disease mechanisms, delineating the role played by B cells and how they are influenced by cell trafficking and gut microbiota, the role of chemokines and identifying novel disease biomarkers for these diseases. Additionally, innate immune responses, complement alterations, and inflammatory dysregulation are studied in rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Furthermore, a keen focus lies on investigating the molecular mechanisms of mast cell regulation in the pathogenesis of mastocytosis.

Research efforts also encompass a wide array of tumor models and cancer patients, all with a shared goal: to gain information on how the immune response is paralyzed in numerous tumors, paving the way for innovative strategies to stimulate cancer-specific immunity, and to test groundbreaking immunotherapies designed to target and eliminate tumors effectively. Notably, immunological research conducted at the DBM is also responsible for a pioneering approach for eradicating leukemic cells without affecting healthy bone marrow stem cells, and for the molecular and functional characterization of genetic changes that lead to inborn errors of immunity.

The scientific activity is complemented by seminars and meetings organized within the department, involving students and scientists at all levels. The DBM also offers an EU-funded Ph.D. program in Immunology, a Ph.D. program in Biology, and an MD-Ph.D. program. A strong sense of scientific community is nurtured by weekly Immunomeetings, in which all scientists with a focus on immunology are invited to participate. All these activities are coordinated by the University of Basel Immunology Community Group (uBICO), which also orchestrates various activities. Among these, uBiCO coordinates the annual meeting of all Immunology Research Groups, the Ph.D. Club, where Ph.D. students present their projects, and invites distinguished guest speakers to visit our department.


Prof. Dr. med. Daniela Finke about her research on the immune system
(video in German)

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Research Groups Immunology and Infectious Diseases

Apostolova Petya, Prof. Dr. med.Blood Cancer Biology and Immunotherapy
Beltra Jean-Christophe Ph.D.Immunobiology and Immunotherapy
Berger Christoph, PD Dr. med.Translational Immunology 
Bernsmeier Christine Prof. Dr.Translational Hepatology
Binder Mascha, Prof. Dr. med.Translational Immuno-Oncology
Boeck Lucas, Dr.Pulmonary Infection Biology
Cavelti-Weder Claudia, PD Dr. med.Translational Diabetes
De Libero Gennaro, Prof. Dr. med.Experimental Immunology
Derfuss Tobias, Prof. Dr. med.Clinical Neuroimmunology
Donath Marc, Prof. Dr. med.Diabetes Research
Filipowicz Sinnreich Magdalena, PD Dr.Liver Immunology
Finke Daniela, Prof. Dr.Developmental Immunology
Hartmann Karin, Prof. Dr. med.Allergy and Immunity
Heim Markus, Prof. Dr. med.Hepatology
Hess Christoph, Prof. Dr. med.Immunobiology
Hirsch Hans H., Prof. Dr. med.Transplantation and Clinical Virology
Holländer Georg, Prof. Dr.Pediatric Immunology
Hutter Gregor, Prof. Dr. medBrain Tumor Immunotherapy and Biology
Jeker Lukas, Prof. Dr.Molecular Immune Regulation
Khanna Gremmelmaier Nina, Prof. Dr. med.Infection Biology
King Carolyn, Prof. Dr.Infection Immunology
Kuhle Jens, Prof. Dr. med.Clinical Neuroimmunology
Kyburz Diego, Prof. Dr. med.Experimental Rheumatology
Läubli Heinz, Prof. Dr. med.Cancer Immunotherapy
Mehling Matthias, PD Dr. med.Translational Neuroimmunology
Niess Jan, Prof. Dr. med.Gastroenterology
Pinschewer Daniel, Prof. Dr. med.Experimental Virology
Pröbstel Anne-Katrin, Prof. Dr. med.Experimental Neuroimmunology
Recher Mike, Prof. Dr. med.Immunodeficiency
Schaeren-Wiemers Nicole, Prof. Dr.Neurobiology
Timper Katharina, Prof. Dr. med.Obesity Research
Trendelenburg Marten, Prof. Dr. med.Clinical Immunology
Zippelius Alfred, Prof. Dr. med.Cancer Immunology