Immunological memory ensures that, once infected by a particular virus or bacteria, individuals are generally protected from a second encounter with that same pathogen. This ability of lymphocytes to “remember” is the basis for protection following vaccination. Little is known about the signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms that regulate the formation and maintenance of memory T cell numbers and functional capacity.
The goal of our research is to understand how T cell memory is generated and maintained by identifying the transcriptional and signaling events that regulate the survival and differentiation of T cells as they navigate the immune response and become long-lived memory T cells.
Vaccines have been the most effective medical intervention of our time. Eradication of small pox and the near hope for successful global elimination of polio are two clear such examples. However, there are many diseases for which conventional strategies for vaccine design have not been successful and it is now clear that the immune system can be exploited to fight tumors as well. Ultimately we are investigating new ways to induce the immune system to provide protection from infection and eradicate malignancies.