Current treatments for autoimmunity rely on general immunosuppression, which exposes patients to opportunistic infections. Hence, immunoregulatory modalities, which educate the immune system to induce antigen-specific tolerance are desirable. My doctoral research revolved around engineered red blood cells (RBCs) to treat preclinical models of autoimmune diseases by hijacking the tolerogenic RBC clearance pathways. As a postdoctoral fellow, I worked on an alpaca-derived single domain antibody fragment (nanobody)-based platform. I have engineered these nanobodies to efficiently target antigen presenting cells and transmit either tolerogenic or vaccinal signal to antigen-specific immune cells. I showed that a single dose of a VHH that recognizes major histocompatibility complex class II/MHCII (VHHMHCII), conjugated to a myelin peptide and an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid, i.e. dexamethasone (VHHMHCII-MOG-DEX), affords lasting protection in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS). A single dose of VHHMHCII-MOG-DEX also reverses paralyses in mice without compromising the capacity of the immune system to fight pathogens. I further developed this technology for treating type 1 diabetes and as a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. My independent group will aspire to produce novel treatments for autoimmune and infectious diseases.
Talk will be in-person and virtual, see information below.