Bruno Correia, Associate Professor in Bioengineering at the EPFL, is laureate of the 2021 EPFL University Latsis Award for his contributions in interfacing protein design with immunoengineering. Some of his work has unveiled novel routes for the development of new vaccine concepts and cell-based therapies.
Protein design has sparked hopes in the field of vaccinology, in particular, to elicit targeted neutralizing antibody (nAb) responses. Although many potent nAbs have been identified and structurally characterized in complex with their target antigens, the design of immunogens that elicit precise antibody responses remains a major challenge. Thus, one of the central goals for vaccine development is to elicit antibody responses with precisely defined epitope specificities. The difficulty in developing immunogens that drive the induction of antibodies specific for a restricted subset of epitopes on a single protein, and consequently the fine specificity of the B cell response following immunization continues to be a critical barrier to rational vaccine design.
To address these limitations, Bruno Correia and his team used a newly developed computational method to engineer epitope-focused immunogens of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus. This approach enables to target specific epitopes for vaccine and therapeutic antibody development. In the next stage of their work, they will bring these technologies for use in pathogens with pandemic potential (e.g. Influenza and Coronavirus) in an attempt to target highly conserved regions of these pathogens that may afford broad protection. In a long-term perspective such technologies may enable the development of improved vaccines tailored to personalized immunological profiles.
The University Latsis Prizes
Worth 25,000 Swiss francs, the four University Latsis Prizes are awarded annually by the Universities of Geneva and Saint-Gall and by the Ecoles Polytechniques Fédérales of Zurich (EPFZ) and Lausanne (EPFL). Their purpose is to encourage and recognise outstanding work by young researchers under the age of 40 working within the Swiss higher education system.
About the EPFL laureate: Bruno Correia
Bruno Correia joined the NCCR Chemical Biology in 2018.
As Head of the Laboratory of Protein Design & Immunoengineering (LPDI) at EPFL’s Institute of Bioengineering (School of Engineering), Bruno Correia has developed and directed cutting edge research in protein design. Targeting practical applications in therapeutics, vaccines or biosensing, he and his team are striving on the one hand to expand nature’s repertoire by designing novel functional proteins (bottom-up de novo protein design), and on the other to functionally repurpose proteins pre-existing in the natural repertoire. The original methods Correia and his coworkers have developed and refined, which combine in silico, in vitro and in vivo approaches, have earned them a world-wide reputation as leading experts in protein synthesis, vaccine design and gene therapy research.
Discover more about Bruno Correia’s research on his lab website.
On our blog, we have led an interview with Bruno Correia to discuss current challenges and understand perspectives in relation with vaccine development.