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Memory manipulation: development of novel strategies to enhance the memory CD8 T cell response against COVID-19 following vaccination.

Title of the Project: Memory manipulation: development of novel strategies to enhance the memory CD8 T cell response against COVID-19 following vaccination.

Grantor: Croatian Science Foundation

Leader: Felix Wensveen

Co-leader: Đurđica Cekinović Grbeša

Value: HRK 1.241.625

 

Short description:

Our project will investigate how immunity is formed against SARS-CoV-2. Many people know that after infection or vaccination we form antibodies which bind and neutralize viral particles. However, antibodies do not work very well against viruses inside cells. To detect and eliminate infected cells, we have specialized immune cells called T cells. In this project we will study the ‘bandwidth’ of T cells: the number of viral variants that our immune system can recognize. Viruses continuously mutate as they move through the population to avoid recognition by the immune system. To be immune for COVID-19, our T cells must therefore not only recognize the original virus, but also possible mutants. First, we will characterize the bandwidth of T cells in patients recovered from COVID-19. Next, in mice we will test a new experimental therapy to increase the number of COVID-19 variants that can be recognized by our T cells. Our project is important for vaccine development: the more variants our T cells recognize, the better their protective capacity.

This project continues more than a decade of research done by my team on the regulation of the bandwith of anti-viral T cells and globally we are one of the leading groups in this field. Main researcher on this project is Dr. Inga Kavazović, my former PhD student and one of the best young immunologists in Croatia. We will work together with the team of Doc. Đurđica Cekinović Grbeša, specialist of infectiology at KBC Rijeka, who will run the clinical part of the study.