The main goal of this network is to generate new knowledge on the molecular mechanisms of innate immune responses and to translate the findings to therapies of cancer and viral diseases.
In the research part we will deal with the basic principles of the innate immune defense used to control tumors and viral infections with a focus on NK and NK/T cells, including analysis of NK receptor genomics/epigenetics, gene polymorphisms/disease linkage, differentiation of hitherto unrecognized NK cell subpopulations and novel ligands for NK receptors exposed by tumor and/or virally infected cells. We will investigate the mechanisms installed by tumors and viruses to avoid or subvert immune defenses. This will include the investigation of the role of NK/T cell subpopulations in the defense against tumors and infections by herpes virus family members, some being involved in tumor formation, in the development of inflammatory diseases and/or constituting a frequent complication during tumor therapy. The project will support anti-tumor and anti-viral therapies by developing novel technology for NK cell generation from cord blood stem cells for NK cell infusions in patients, by genetic engineering of NK cells and by using NK receptors and their ligands to develop novel reagents for amplifying anti-tumor and -viral activities of NK/T cells. It will further undertake basic studies on the potential of the newly emerging iPS cell technology for reconstituting immune systems including NK cells in patients with hematologic cancers.
All students of this ITN will be trained in state-of-the-art immunotechnology including wider aspects of molecular medicine at the individual partner universities. An exchange of students between the different partners will be organized to ensure that every participant will be trained in several laboratories/universities with different expertise. It will further include network-wide training modules with cutting-edge lectures of internationally recognized research experts in the field, state-of-the-art seminars in the front-line technologies used in this project as well as courses in genome-wide bioinformatics, business and patent rights.