Immune & Inflammatory Response Research

About our Program

Immunology is an essential pillar of the biomedical sciences and seeks to define the role of the immune system in states of both health and disease. Researchers at our Blacksburg and Maryland facilities are engaged in both molecular and cellular immunology research on topics broadly covering autoimmunity, adaptive immunity, innate immunity, and host-microbe interactions.

In addition to basic research, our team seeks to translate findings from bench-to-bedside to improve both human and animal health. The integration of animal model research with both veterinary and human clinical studies is a major strength of our program.

Innate Immunity

Dr. Irving Allen
Dr. Irving Allen identifies a family of proteins involved in innate immune system signaling that attenuate inflammatory bowel disease pathogenesis and cancer.

The innate immune system, which is the first line of host defense against harmful agents, provides an immediate response to pathogens and cellular damage.

Current research areas

  • Host-pathogen defense
  • Pattern Recognition Receptor signaling and function
  • Cancer immunology
  • Leukocyte biology
  • Inflammation
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Innate immune system interactions with the adaptive immune system
  • Human and veterinary inflammatory disease pathobiology
  • Therapeutic modification of the innate immune response

Adaptive Immunity

Dr. Ken Oestreich
Dr. Ken Oestreich uncovers how cell 'memory' could be the key to strengthen vaccine efficacy.

The adaptive immune system is responsible for coordinating short-term effector immune responses to infection, as well as promoting long-term natural and vaccine-induced immunity.

Current research areas

  • Effector T and B lymphocyte differentiation
  • Molecular mechanisms underlying memory T cell development
  • Adaptive immune response to bacterial and viral infection
  • Vaccine development
  • Adaptive immune response involvement in autoimmunity and immunodeficiency
  • Computational modeling of the adaptive immune response
  • Adaptive immune system in veterinary immunology

Autoimmune Diseases

Dr. Xin Luo
Dr. Xin Luo discovers potential biomarker for an autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system, which is designed to attack foreign intruders of the body, to erroneously act on the body itself.

Current research areas

  • Sex differences in autoimmunity and autoimmune diseases
  • Hormonal regulation of autoimmunity
  • Epigenetic regulation of autoimmunity
  • Signaling pathways of inflammation
  • Role of microbiome in autoimmunity

Host-Microbe Interactions

Dr. Nanda Nanthakumar
Dr. Nanda Nanthakumar investigates host-microbial interactions and regulation of intestinal homeostasis.

The immune system begins to mature at birth following our initial exposure to microbes and the colonizing microbiota ultimately develops a mutualist interaction that functions to maintain mucosal immune system homeostasis.

Current research areas

  • Dietary modulation of host-microbiome interactions
  • Host-virus, Host-bacteria, and Host-parasite interactions
  • Impact of the gut microbiome in health and disease
  • Mucosal Immunology
  • Pathogen mediated immune system modulation
  • Utilization of viruses and bacteria as vectors and therapeutics

Faculty Research Team

Ansar Ahmed

Ansar Ahmed, DVM, PhD
Professor of Immunology and Head
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Molecular aspects of pro-inflammatory cytokine signaling (e.g. interferon-gamma, IL-27, IL-12, IL-17), induction of transcription factors, regulation of inflammation and autoimmune diseases by microRNAs, and the role of microbiota in autoimmune disease.

Irving Coy Allen

Irving Coy Allen, PhD
Assistant Professor of Inflammatory Disease
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Critical factors associated with induction of the host immune response following pathogen exposure, during chronic inflammatory disease and in cancer, and resolution of an overzealous immune response.

Learn more about the Allen Laboratory.

Xin Luo

Xin Luo, PhD
Assistant Professor of Immunology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Immunological and microbial regulation of autoimmunity and immunodeficiency. Murine models and human patient samples are utilized to study various diseases including systemic lupus erythematosus and primary immunodeficiencies.

Learn more about the Luo Laboratory.

Nanda Nanthakumar

Nanda Nanthakumar, PhD
Associate Professor of Mucosal Immunology, Microbiome & Inflammatory Diseases
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Elucidating molecular mechanisms by which mutualistic host-microbial interaction regulates intestinal homeostasis, susceptibility to age-specific infection, digestive physiology, and disease susceptibility.

Kenneth Oestreich

Kenneth Oestreich, PhD
Assistant Professor of Immunology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology
Dual appointment: Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute

Research focus: Defining the mechanisms by which transcription factors contribute to cellular differentiation and function in the immune system with the overarching goal of developing novel therapies targeting the abnormal activity of transcription factors that cause human disease.

Learn more about the Oestreich Laboratory.