The Institute for Chemical Immunology (ICI) is working on an innovative, interdisciplinary research programme in which expertise in chemical synthesis, biomolecular structure determination, proteomics and drug development are linked to immunology. From a fundamental understanding of the immune system, the overarching goal is to develop new biochemical compounds that can very specifically activate or deactivate components of the immune system. Initially, the ICI is concentrating on activating compounds for the treatment of cancer and on deactivating connections for autoimmune disorders, with rheumatism being of the highest priority.
The research programme covers three interconnected themes:
- Chemistry-based immunotherapeutics
- Chemistry-based diagnostics
- Network biology of the immune response
Theme 1: Chemistry-based immunotherapeutics
This theme includes two main approaches. In the first, existing biopharmaceutical agents such as antibodies and therapeutic vaccines are taken as a starting point to develop more effective and specific variants. The second approach concentrates on identifying crucial pathways in the immune system and designing new chemical/pharmaceutical interventions that can stimulate or suppress specific routes.
Theme 2: Chemistry-based diagnostics
This theme focuses on using new diagnostics to measure the functioning of the immune system and map possible deviations in detail. These innovative methods will be developed for both in vivo and in vitro use. The insights from theme 3 are an important source for research within this theme, while the methods developed here can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the means developed within theme 1.
Theme 3: Network biology of the immune response
This theme focuses on the use of advanced analytical chemical techniques (including proteomics and metabolomics) and bioinformatics applications to unravel the fundamental mechanisms that determine the immune response and steer. This understanding forms the basis for the development of new medicines (theme 1) and diagnostic methods (theme 2).