As a Branco Weiss Fellow, Dr. Julia Merkenschlager will combine approaches from the fields of immunology, virology, and immunogen design to better understand the rules that underpin protective immune responses following vaccination.
UK and Germany
- Postdoctoral Associate, Rockefeller University, USA, 2018–present
- PhD Infection and Immunity, Francis Crick Institute London, UK, 2012–2017
- Bachelor of Science Honors, Bio Medicine, University College London, UK, 2009–2012
- Young Investigator Award Scripps Consortium, HIV Vaccine design, 2021
- EMBO Long-Term Fellowship Award, 2018–2020
- Nuffield Foundation Bursary Award, 2010
- Sunday Times: “Girls get Ahead”
Branco Weiss Fellow Since
Immunology, Vaccine Design
Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, Rockefeller University, New York, USA
Vaccines have been one of the biggest success stories of modern medicine and they have the potential to protect our most vulnerable communities. However, for some infectious diseases such as HIV-1 and its progression to AIDS a vaccine remains elusive. Dr. Julia Merkenschlager wants to understand the immunological rules behind successful vaccination with the goal that this will inform the engineering of new immunogens that can expedite the production of high affinity antibodies in the context of HIV and beyond.
Effective vaccination depends on the efficient and timely development of high affinity antibodies generated in germinal centers (GCs). GCs are specialized microenvironments that allow for the selection of high affinity antibodies from pools of low affinity precursors, in a process known as affinity maturation. This selection of good antibodies (protective) from bad ones (not protective) is orchestrated by GC T cells. Through dynamic cellular interactions, GC T cells select the good antibodies to be propagated and then secreted in the vaccinated individual in order to confer protection. The aim of the proposed research is to understand how GC T cells can be harnessed to further improve vaccination strategies.