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Institute of Immunology (IfI)

The Institute of Immunology (IfI) employs basic and applied research to investigate the immune response in livestock to pathogens causing notifiable animal diseases. Main research areas encompass detailed characterization of the immune system in farm animals, investigation of host-pathogen interactions (including immunity in reservoir species), rational vaccine design and development of new diagnostics. The research implements and develops One Health concepts. One critical topic addresses immunity to zoonotic agents with the aim at ensuring effective protection of livestock and facilitating translational research to distinct animal species and humans.

The research projects of the IfI focus on the role of cellular stress and cell-autonomous immunity, unveiling metabolic reprogramming and signaling in infected immune cells, characterization of cellular heterogeneity and functional diversity of phagocytes and lymphocytes, and development of more efficient or novel vaccines or vaccination strategies as well as immunodiagnostic tools. Priority lies on immunity to intracellular bacterial (e.g. mycobacteria, coxiellaceae) and viral pathogens (e.g. influenza, swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease viruses) which cause zoonotic and other notifiable animal diseases. Studied host species comprise farm animals such as pigs, cattle, poultry, rabbits and fish, as well as wild reservoir species (e.g. bats) and classical experimental animal models (rodents).

Established immunological methods (e.g. multiparameter FACS analysis and sorting, MACS and ELISpot) and state-of-the-art technologies (scRNAseq, microscale thermophoresis and metabolic flux measurements) are in use. Systems immunology approaches based on host-specific and comparative immunology, taking into account the pathogen variability, are applied. Deciphering complexity of the immune responses using different infection models and cutting-edge technologies allows for a comprehensive understanding of immunopathology and protective immunity and facilitates the development of novel intervention strategies.