Robert Abbott, PhD

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20142022

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Research interests

Research Interests include: Germinal center B cell biology, HIV and SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Biology, Metabolic regulation of humoral immunity, Memory B cell biology and Anti-tumor immunity. Dr. Abbott's lab focus is understanding B cell responses to complex vaccine antigens. Vaccines are arguably the greatest biomedical scientific achievement of the 20th century, and our greatest hope of eradicating the HIV problem. Nearly every single licensed vaccine is thought to work by inducing protective antibody responses1. These protective antibodies are born in germinal centers (GCs), which are specialized microscopic structures that form after vaccination, and the crucible in which B cells mutate their BCRs through somatic hypermutation and compete against each other for T follicular helper (Tfh) for cell survival signals to undergo affinity maturation. Complex antigens such as HIV Env and influenza HA present a unique problem to designing effective vaccines due to high levels of interconal competition between bnAb precursors and B cells specific for off-target non-neutralizing epitopes. To investigate these challenges, we developed a novel VRC01gHL B cell transfer model as well as human germline (HuGL) transfer models with validated precursor frequencies utilizing a series of engineered outer domain germline-targeted (eOD-GT) HIV envelope proteins with defined affinities. We found that precursor frequency, antigen affinity, and avidity were interdependent variables in determining competitive success of B cells within GCs, suggesting early seeding of GCs by B cell clones may be a critical target for improving vaccine designs. However, there are significant additional knowledge gaps pertaining to the physiological conditions in which B cells compete to enter GCs, and compete within the GC microenvironment (GCME), form immunological memory, and how memory B cells re-enter secondary GCs. My lab will focus on answering these and other questions with the overall goal of developing novel vaccination strategies that can aide in development of an effective HIV vaccine and more effective vaccines to complex antigens such as those found in influenza and sars-cov-2 vaccines.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA

… → 2016

MS Cardiopulmonary and Exercise Science, Northeastern University, Boston, MA

… → 2010

Research Strategic Pillar Keywords

  • Infectious/ Immunological Health

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