Nano-optical sensing of protein: Protein interactions
Our objective is to elucidate molecular mechanisms of biorecognition. How do receptors bind their corresponding ligands? How do viruses recognize their target cells? What enables the immune system to identify self antigens and to eliminate foreign invaders? The research is a combination of protein biochemistry, monoclonal antibody technology and combinatorial phage display systems employing the full range of molecular biology methodologies. We view our research as midway between basic and applied - "inventive research", with the goal of discovering and describing new phenomena that are then incorporated into novel and useful applications. The current purpose of our work is to apply our understanding of recognition to the development of novel vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, so to combat infectious diseases and cancer.
A more specific target has been the elucidation of novel neutralizing epitopes of HIV-1. Major questions that motivate our research program are: What constitutes protective immunity and how does one rationally design an effective cross reactive AIDS vaccine? The current focus of the lab is on the immunogenicity of the HIV-1 envelope protein, gp120 and its interactions with the HIV receptor CD4. The experimental strategy consists of high resolution molecular analysis of the epitopes of known cross reactive neutralizing monoclonal antibodies against HIV or systematic analysis of polyclonal sera of HIV infected long term non-progressors. This research has led to more basic studies regarding structural aspect of antigen-antibody recognition, maturation of the humoral immune response as well as autoimmunity in HIV infected individuals.