Dr. Zhang’s research focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of protective immunity against aerosolized intracellular bacterial pathogens and developing novel approaches for discovery of safe, effective vaccines and immunotherapeutic strategies against aerosol-transmitted intracellular bacterial pathogens.
To accomplish these broad goals, current projects in the lab are designed to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of vaccine-induced protective immunity against Coxiella burnetii infection and to identify the key protective antigens that can be used to develop a safe and effective vaccine against human Q fever.
C. burnetii is an obligate gram-negative intracellular bacterium that causes acute Q fever and chronic diseases in humans. It is an understudied category B select agent that can be transmitted via aerosol. Creation of a safe and effective vaccine to prevent Q fever remains an important public health and national biosecurity goal. However, the mechanisms of protective immunity against C. burnetii infection are not well understood as the key protective antigens have not been identified. Therefore, to understand the immunological basis of host defense and to identify the key protective antigens are critical for developing a safe and effective new generation vaccine.
Current studies include NIH funded or pending projects:
- Use of a humanized antibody against intracellular bacterial pathogen
- Understanding the role of dendritic cells in regulating vaccine-induced protective immunity against Q fever
- Use of mimetic peptides vaccines against aerosol-transmitted bacteria
- Understand the mechanisms of B cell-mediated protective immunity against Q fever