Welcome to the Topham Lab
Viruses that infect the respiratory tract are responsible for extensive morbidity and mortality in human populations worldwide. Influenza virus is a particular concern because of its ability to periodically cause deadly pandemics as occurred in 2009 after the spread of a swine-origin H1N1 virus to humans. Novel avian influenza viruses such as H5N1 and H7N9 continue to cause sporadic cases of severe disease in humans and are an ongoing pandemic threat. The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is our newest threat. An understanding of how the immune system controls influenza, coronavirus, and other respiratory viruses and provides long-term protection is critical for the rational development of effective vaccination and treatment strategies.
Studies in our lab are primarily aimed at understanding the multiple roles of virus-specific B and T cells in determining the outcome of viral infection of the respiratory tract. In particular, we are interested in the character, longevity, and protective capacity of B and T cell memory induced by infection and vaccination. A large component of work in the lab focuses on the response of the human immune system to infection and vaccination; other work uses a variety of animal model systems to investigate basic immunological mechanisms. This work will identify strategies for engineering new antivirals and improving vaccines.
Tissue Resident Memory (TRM) CD8 T cells are a special non-lymphoid tissue resident memory cells that are established after an infection but do not recirculate in the body. They are present in all barrier tissues such as the respiratory tract and provide rapid immune protection during re-encounter with the same or variant viruses. We study how they form, their function, motility, and genetic programming using a combination of imaging, immunology, and genomics.
Many projects involve strong collaborative interactions within centers at the University of Rochester that focus on immunity to respiratory pathogens. These centers include the Respiratory Pathogens Research Center (RPRC), the New York Influenza Center of Excellence (NYICE), and the University of Rochester Genomics Research Center (URGRC).