Rustom Antia, PhD
Emory Vaccine Center
Samuel C Dobbs Professor
Department of Biology, Emory University
I am interested in developing a quantitative understanding of the dynamics of pathogens and immune responses. Some of my work involves large conceptual questions: why are immune systems are so complex? Is this complexity adaptive (arising from the requirement of generating robust responses to diverse pathogens) or is it simply a result of evolutionary history.
Most of the time my group works closely with experimental immunologists to understand the dynamics of immune responses. Our contribution involves the use of mathematical models and computer simulations to help with the formulation of hypotheses, the design of experiments to test these hypotheses, and the interpretation of experimental data. Our main areas of investigation are:
1. The dynamics of infections and immune responses:
How do immune systems work? What determines whether an infection is short lived or chronic, and whether it generates lasting immunity? The answers to questions could help us design better vaccines, particularly towards emerging infections such as pandemic influenza as well as persistent infections such as malaria and HIV.
2. Linking immunology and epidemiology:
We have developed a theoretical framework to connect the within-host dynamics of a pathogen with its transmission characteristics. We have used this framework to understand why pathogens harm their hosts, and under what conditions we expect a pathogens virulence to change. We are currently applying this framework to understand immunological surrogates of protection following vaccination. We are also interested in roles of ecological and evolutionary changes in the emergence of new pathogens. The answers to these questions gives us an insight into the factors that have led to the emergence of HIV, SARS, and influenza, and might help us predict future pandemics.