Jeff Teigler, Division of Medical Sciences
"Building Better Vaccines by Learning the Language of the Immune System"
Jeffrey Teigler has long been fascinated by the interface between virology and immunology. He initially came to Harvard to try to understand how viruses such as SARS and bird flu cross the species barrier to infect humans, and why some people become symptomatic while others don’t.
“How does the immune system respond to one virus versus another versus another?” he wondered. “I was interested in the interaction between how the body immediately responds and what the virus looks like in order to get that kind of a response.”
As Teigler shifted to focus on vaccines against HIV, he looked specifically at the role of viral vectors—viruses that have been modified so that they will not attack a cell and cannot replicate—in vaccine delivery. “The reason viral vectors are powerful is that your body is predisposed to attack bacteria, viruses, and other things,” he says. “So if you package whatever you want your body to attack in a virus, that will stimulate your immune system to attack it much more strongly than if you just put in a small piece of a target on its own.”
Teigler’s research indicates that viral vectors, long thought to be passive shuttles, are in fact “active in the process of determining what type of immune response you’ll get back out,” he says. They provide researchers with an entirely new toolbox for vaccine development — one Teigler is eager to explore.
Harvard Horizons Symposium, May 6, 4:30 p.m., Sanders Theatre