Vaccines and vaccine immunology

Vaccines are one of the main pillars sustaining public health. Anti-viral vaccines in particular have been extremely successful in providing protection against potentially deadly viral infections such as polio, chickenpox, rubella and measles. However, conventional vaccine strategies are inadequate for developing protective vaccines against many other pathogenic viruses, such as human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), or for developing a more broadly protective vaccine against influenza. Indeed, it has become increasingly clear that new strategies are needed to develop vaccines that can cope with the diversity and variability exhibited by viruses such HIV-1 or the sudden introduction of a potentially pandemic flu virus.

Our research

The Pantophlet Lab conducts research on designing new immunogens and vaccination methods to generate antibodies that can protect against viruses such as HIV-1, flu and HCMV. These antibodies, known as broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs), target epitopes that remain consistent across different strains of the virus. The goal of the lab is to aid in the development of effective HIV and flu vaccines by investigating the development of bnAb responses and understanding the molecular interactions between bnAbs and epitopes. Through this research, the lab aims to improve the molecular and chemical engineering of immunogens to elicit bnAb responses. The design of immunogens is continuously improved by analyzing the neutralizing antibody responses in animal models.

Our research objectives are driven by five complementary aims:

  • To interrogate naïve B cell receptor interactions with designer immunogens in vitro
  • To probe immunogen design concepts in human antibody transgenic animal models
  • To explore application of novel adjuvants and immunomodulatory platforms in vivo
  • To investigate the relevance of T follicular helper cell and T memory cell responses in vivo
  • To dissect B cell responses in-depth at the serological, cellular and monoclonal level

Research infrastructure

The Pantophlet Lab uses a variety of techniques and methodologies that are based in immunochemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, molecular biology, immunology, and virology. The main lab is equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, such as a a high-performance microplate luminometer, an ÄKTA FPLC with MALS and RI detectors and an Octet RED96e biolayer interferometer. Standard equipment in the lab includes a thermocycler, warm incubators and shakers, temperature-controlled table-top centrifuges and microcentrifuges, heat blocks, a +4°C lab fridge, -20°C freezers, a -80°C freezer, protein and nucleic acid gel-electrophoresis apparatuses, a Nanovue, an ELISA plate reader and plate washer.  The lab also has multiple desktop PCs for data analysis and other research-related work.

In addition to the main lab, members of the Pantophlet Lab have access to several specialized rooms and shared equipment that are integral to the research being conducted. These include a dedicated tissue culture room, a chemicals room, and a shared cold room. The tissue culture room is equipped with equipment (microscopes, centrifuges, incubators) used for a wide range of research applications. Furthermore, members of the lab have access to a variety of shared equipment (e.g., GelDoc system, qPCR instrument, 10X Chromium Controller) and a Flow Cytometry Laboratory that provides the necessary tools for cell analysis and sorting. Additionally, the lab has support for animal work with the help of Animal Care Services and contract research organizations.

Research funding

Research in the Pantophlet Lab is supported by operating grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the United States. Dr. Pantophlet is supported by a Career Scholar award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) in British Columbia. Funding for the development of lab infrastructure has been secured from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF).