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Research

Research by faculty within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at IU School of Medicine centers on microbial pathogenesis, immunology, hematopoiesis, cancer biology and gene therapy. Current pathogenesis research focuses on Borrelia burgdorferi, Chlamydia trachomatis, Coxiella burnetii, Escherichia coli, Haemophilus ducreyi, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV-1, Human Papillomavirus Virus, Leptospira interrogans, Toxoplasma gondii and malaria. A major effort is on developing experimental therapeutics for these pathogens.

The department has a strong emphasis in immunology. Ongoing studies include investigation of allergic and inflammatory diseases, immune signaling pathways and lymphocyte differentiation, immune evasion by viruses and tumors, autoimmune disease, innate and adaptive immunity, antigen presentation and B cell responses.

The department’s research on stem cells, hematopoiesis, transplantation and hematological malignancies is among the best in the United States. Among 97 medical schools nationwide, the department is ranked 28th in NIH funding with an annual research budget of approximately 8.5 million dollars.

Faculty Spotlight

Hal E. Broxmeyer, PhD

Hal E. Broxmeyer, PhD

Distinguished Professor
Research focuses on mechanisms regulating growth; survival differentiation; and mobilization of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells and embryonic stem cells.
Stanley M. Spinola, MD

Stanley M. Spinola, MD

Chair, Department of Microbiology & Immunology
The Spinola laboratory focuses on how the bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi successfully infects humans.

Focus Areas

Pathogenesis

Thirteen laboratories are conducting research in the area of viral, bacterial or parasitic pathogenesis. Specific areas of emphasis include etiologic agents of sexually transmitted infections, oncogenic viruses, microbiome-pathogen interactions, host-pathogen interactions of extracellular pathogens, and cell and molecular biology of intracellular pathogens. While some laboratories study the interaction of the microorganism with its target cell or organ, others study the immune response to the microorganisms.  Several laboratories are actively pursuing experimental therapeutics to combat these pathogens. This program is currently supported by a five-year NIH training grant.

Cancer

A significant focus within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology is cancer research. Twelve primary and six secondary faculty are members of the Simon Cancer Center, which has recently been designated as a clinical cancer center by the National Cancer Institute. This designation places the center and faculty members with an elite group that focus on excellent clinical care and the rapid implementation of new discoveries into the treatment of cancer. This inter-disciplinary focus in cancer brings together scientific excellence and the capability to integrate a diversity of research approaches to focus on the issue of cancer. Several department faculty are studying basic molecular and cellular immunological mechanisms relevant to tumor immunology. The Department of Microbiology and Immunology has extensive interactions with clinicians and clinician scientists that provide a unique environment to support basic and translational research.

Gene Transfer and Therapy

The gene transfer/gene therapy program is supported by a five-year training grant from the NIH. Designed to develop the next generation of scientific investigators in gene transfer/gene therapy, this training program supports new scientific advances that will influence the treatment and management of a number of human genetic diseases, both inherited and acquired. Although a number of clinical gene therapy trials are currently underway, the importance of basic research is also emphasized.

Immunology

Faculty within the department are exploring a number of exciting and challenging areas related to the development of immune responses and the role of the immune system in disease. A major focus is on allergic diseases, such as asthma and food allergy. Current work is on understanding the specific cytokines and transcription factors involved in the differentiation of T cells as well as the role of T cells in antibody regulation and in controlling autoimmunity. Several investigators are defining the requirements for hematopoietic cell development and, specifically, the pathways by which stem cells give rise to the components of the immune system. The immunology program is currently supported by a five-year training grant from the NIH.