Research Group

T-cell antigens and Immunogenicity

Group leader: Sunil Kumar Saini

Our overall aim is to discover novel T-cell targets (antigens) and understand the adaptation of T-cells in different disease settings. We perform extensive evaluations of T-cells using cutting-edge technologies that we have established over the years. Identification of new T-cell targets and their details characterization in cancer, viral infections, and vaccination is key to improving ongoing T-cell therapies and identifying new avenues for therapeutic application:

Illustration: Maximize the impact of T-cell-mediated therapies

Identification of Novel T-cell targets for cancer immunotherapy

Expanding the benefits of cancer immunotherapy to a larger patient population is an absolute necessity. One of our leading efforts is to identify new antigens for T cells mediated cancer immunotherapy that would directly influence cancer vaccine development strategies by providing new target antigens for broader coverage on their own and in combination with existing antigens across different cancers. Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) form a substantial part of the human genome (8-10%) and may serve as a unique source of cancer-specific antigens due to their expression in different cancers. We have identified T-cells specific to HERV-derived antigens in hematological malignancies. Currently, we are performing in-depth characterization of T cells induced by HERVs and evaluating their therapeutic potential.

Illustration: T-cell recognizing HERV-derived antigen on a cancer cell

Adaptation of T-cells in infection and vaccination

A successful immune response to a viral infection relies on the efficient presentation of pathogens in the form of small peptide fragments (antigens) by MHC (major histocompatibility complex) molecules. T cells recognize these MHC-presented pathogen antigens by T cell receptors. An important aspect of our research is to understand how individual antigens dominate a T-cell-mediated immune response. By using SARS-CoV-2 as a model system we are systematically evaluating the adaptation of different antigen-specific T cells.  We have performed the most detailed genome-wide profiling of SARS-CoV-2-derived antigens in COVID-19 patients. Now using MHC multimers, functional assessment, and single-cell profiling, we are studying the adaptation of antigen-specific T-cells in infection and vaccination settings.

Group Leader

Sunil Kumar Saini

Sunil Kumar Saini Group leader, Associate Professor Department of Health Technology Phone: +45 35886807