There is an urgent need for (better) antiviral treatments. Most antiviral research targets viruses and essential virus-infection-associated proteins. However, one new angle is to focus on host-directed antivirals. The concept of manipulating the host metabolism to bolster immune response as a therapeutic strategy has demonstrated impressive success in cancer and autoimmunity, and a similar impact on the treatment of viral diseases is anticipated. Although knowledge in this line of research is still in its infancy, our focus on a fundamental characterization of the role of immune-metabolic pathways in antiviral response towards some of the highest impact respiratory diseases will ultimately change clinical intervention in the treatment of pathogenic viral diseases.
The use of animal models for infectious disease research continues to be important, and we have longstanding experience focusing on critical knowledge gaps that cannot be studied otherwise. The implementation of recombinant viruses expressing fluorescent reporter proteins has vastly improved the sensitivity of our in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo model systems, as it has enabled the detection of virus-infected cells with unprecedented high sensitivity. We have played a leading global role in developing the imaging of infected cells and tissues in vivo for fundamental pathogenesis studies, as well as in translational studies aimed at the development of antiviral treatment or viral oncolytic therapy.
Measles is associated with immune suppression, resulting in increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections. At the same time, measles is also associated with immune activation, and it induces strong MV-specific immune responses that confer lifelong immunity. Using a combination of in vitro models (using cell lines, primary cells and stem cell-based organoids) and in vivo studies (in animal models or clinical studies) we unravel the impact of measles on the immune system and the consequences for host resistance.
Oncolytic viral treatment of pancreatic, prostate and brain cancer:
Our research is focused on the use of oncolytic viruses for untreatable solid tumours. Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV) is an avian virus that causes no serious disease in humans, and preferentially replicates in cells with a defect in innate responses, such as tumour cells. Wildtype NDV strains have shown antitumor activity without major side effects in phase I–II clinical trials for various solid cancer types. We aim to bring viro-immunotherapy to the clinic to treat patients with pancreatic, prostate and brain cancer. To this end, our research focuses on the efficacy and safety of the viruses and the clinical grade (ATMP) production of viral batches