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Research group of Dr. K. Schober

Research group of PD Dr. K. Schober


Our goal is to understand and engineer human T cell immunity to treat infectious diseases and cancer.
T cells recognize parts of infected cells or tumor cells. To do so, they are equipped with receptors. Every human being has about 100 million different T cell receptors! T cells are like a population inhabiting the human organism and their receptor is their unique finger print. They usually protect you, sometimes they can cause problems and they continuously change.
We aim to understand how T cell populations evolve based on their T cell receptor – and then to use this knowledge therapeutically. For this, we re-program T cells by replacing their T cell receptor through means of genetic engineering.

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The adaptive immune system protects from infectious diseases and cancer, but can also cause autoimmunity. Vaccinations – today as important as ever – induce immunological memory to protect from infections. The adoptive transfer of T cells represents an exciting new field of medicine for the treatment of infectious diseases and cancer. Novel tolerogenic therapies for autoimmune diseases are being developed based on new insights in T cell targets relevant for disease pathogenesis.

The Schober lab aims at understanding and engineering human T cell immunity in order to develop preventive and therapeutic strategies against infections diseases, cancer and autoimmunity. To this end, we investigate the composition and evolution of human antigen-specific T cell responses over space and time. Routine vaccinations and patients receiving T cell therapies thereby serve for us as “experiments in nature”, which inform us on the biology of human T cell responses in a defined and systematic context. To investigate these responses, we use state-of-the-art T cell receptor (TCR) sequence analyses, single-cell metabolic profiling, flow cytometry, single-cell transcriptomics as well as bioinformatic analyses in collaboration with machine-learning experts. Having identified disease-relevant TCRs, we employ advanced genetic engineering tools such as CRISPR/Cas9 to engineer T cells in a highly precise fashion. In analogy to the field of bionics, physiological T cells for us represent a blueprint for functional and safe engineered therapeutic T cell products. Finally, we build on recent developments in the field of genome-wide T cell epitope discovery to elucidate novel targets of pathogens, cancer and autoimmunity. For further information also see Schober, Voit et al. Nat Biomed Eng 2019, Schober, Müller et al. Nat Immunol 2020, Fischer…Schober Nat Comm 2021Purcarea…Schober Sci Immunol 2022, Irrgang…Schober/Winkler/Tenbusch Sci Immunol 2023, Straub…Schober/Busch Immunity 2023.