Previous Fora / 2011

ZIPFEL, Peter F.

Head of Department of Infection Biology, Leibniz Institute for Natural Product
Research and Infection Biology - Hans Knöll Institute (HKI)

Prof. Dr. Zipfel is head of the Department of Infection Biology and Deputy Director of the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology and he is also University Professor for Infection Biology at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena. After receiving a PhD from the University of Bremen, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda MD, USA. He started his current position as chairman of the department of Infection Biology in the year 2000 and since that time his research has been focused on the role of complement, a central innate immune defense system in health and disease. Together with his group he has identified general immune evasion strategies which are shared by pathogenic microbes, including the human pathogenic yeast Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus, as well as other pathogens, such as Gram negative and Gram positive bacteria. In addition the research focuses on aspects of translational medicine. By characterizing the role of gene mutations and copy number variations in a number of complement associated disorders, including kidney diseases, such as HUS (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome), DDD (Dense Deposit Disease) or AMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration) the group has identified new disease subtypes of this severe kidney diseases. This approach resulted in novel treatment options which in particular improve the life of young children. 

Professor Zipfel is speaker of the graduate school “International Leibniz Research School (ILRS) for Microbial and Biomolecular Interactions” and he is associate editor and a member of editorial boards of several scientific journals. He has received prizes and awards including the Research Award of the German Society of Hygiene and Microbiology (DGHM) (2009), EFIS Lecture Award of the European Federation of Immunological Societies (2008), Heinz Spitzbart Award of the European Society for Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynecology (ESIDOG)(2007) and the Thuringian Research Award (2004).



17:00-19:00 17 NOVEMBER
THEMATIC SESSION I. Leopoldina: „Emerging and re-emerging infections”

Fungal Infections a Threat to Health

Infections with human pathogenic fungi have been continuously increasing during the last years and these fungal pathogens have become a major threat for individuals, in particular for patients with a compromised immune system. Human pathogenic fungi like Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus can exist in healthy individuals as benign components of the mucosal flora, however these fungi can also display pathogenic features and then cause mucosal diseases, up to life-threatening bloodstream infections, sepsis and invasive pulmonary aspergillosis which cause substantial morbidity. As current therapeutics are limited, it is essential to define the immune evasion strategies of these fungal pathogens which cause life-threatening infections and at the same time to understand the immune response of the human host to these fungal pathogens. These fungal pathogens can exist in different forms and have e.g. for candida the ability to grow in yeast, pseudohyphal and hyphal forms. In particular hyphal forms cause disease, as these forms can efficiently evade host innate immune attack and as they attach to and invade human epithelial cells and cause further tissue damage. The innate immune system of the human host and in particular the complement system forms the first central barrier for invading fungi and other infectious microbes. Thus in order to cross this important immune barrier fungal pathogens have developed highly sophisticated means to inactivate and block activation of this central innate immune defense system and to inhibit the action of newly generated immune effector compounds.  By analyzing the molecular aspects of the extensive immune crosstalk between the fungal pathogen and the human host allows to define novel evasion strategies and defines new molecules which can serve as useful markers to develop new antifungal compounds and vaccine candidates.