Research at the institute

Viruses are important environmental risk factors to which humans are exposed. The Institute of Virology investigates the molecular and cellular mechanisms behind the persistence and propagation of viruses that cause chronic infections and the potential of these viruses to cause diseases in humans. We hereby focus on hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) viruses and how they cause liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma, on human endogenous retroviruses and their disease associations and on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS.

On the basis of results obtained in molecular studies, we develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic concepts, use viruses as therapeutic tools and create strategies that are intended to prevent viral diseases or tumor development. Elaborate and unique cell culture and mouse models as well as archived human samples allow us to determine the molecular pathways involved in disease pathogenesis. The junior research group focuses on how virus- and pathogen-associated inflammation is maintained and how it induces tissue damage and cancer.

In close interaction with our partner institute at Technische Universität München have established molecular diagnostics, imaging and immune monitoring of viral infections at highest international standards and contribute to the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF). Powerful infection models, mouse models and assay systems are available to test novel antivirals for HIV, HCV and HBV, to determine viral fitness and resistance against antivirals and to quantify pathogen-specific immune responses.

We dissect immune responses to viruses in mouse models and humans and use the immune signatures obtained to develop novel immunotherapeutic strategies. For immuno-/gene-therapies, we use various viral vectors and, and adoptively transfer selectively enriched and receptor modified T cells. The clinical cooperation group translates these immunotherapies into the clinics and an immunomonitoring group was established to escort clinical trials.