The immunology group is positioned upstream of BTI's spectrum of R&D activities and complements existing capabilities by providing expertise in molecular and cellular immunological techniques and assays, developing mouse models of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and identifying targets for downstream development with the aim of discovering biomolecules that have potential applications in human healthcare.
The group has three major research directions. The first is studying the terminal differentiation of B cell with special emphasis on memory B cells and long-lived plasma cells. We focus on deciphering the regulatory functions of microRNAs and signalling molecules in B cell differentiation, and aim to identify new targets for modulating the antibody response. This has a direct impact on the development of novel therapeutic strategies for the modulation of autoantibody production in autoimmune diseases and in the treatment of B cell-derived cancers.
The second area of research is to investigate the immunoregulatory function of natural killer T (NKT) cells in normal immune and autoimmune settings. As these cells uniquely respond to lipid antigens, we aim to discover lipid candidates which could modulate their responses to infection or autoimmunity with the view to develop these lipids as potential vaccine adjuvants.
Last but not least, our third area of research is to understand signal transduction mechanisms in innate immunity focussing on the sensing of pathogenic nucleic acids. In particular, we are interested in studying how molecules such as kinases, helicases and adaptor proteins function in innate immunity against infectious diseases. This could yield novel molecular targets that are amenable for the development of therapeutic drugs such as those that could either enhance the host antimicrobial response or prevent exaggerated host inflammatory response.