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As part of cooperation with the Vetsuisse Faculty of the University of Bern, the IVI is responsible for teaching and research in the areas of virology and immunology. These departments are run by university professors Volker Thiel (Virology) and Artur Summerfield (Immunology).
The research activities comprise both fundamental and applied research and provide an important base for the control of animal diseases and zoonoses and the continuing education of veterinarians and biologists. The research activities of the different IVI departments are closely linked to those of the Vetsuisse Faculty and other relevant European research institutions.
IVI research in the field of virology and immunology is financed to a large extent by third-party funding, especially the European Union Framework Programmes, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) and the 3R Research Foundation. A number of projects with industry also contribute to this funding.
Fundamental research in immunology and virology
The main area of research in immunology and virology is virus-host interactions. The focus here is on interactions with the immune system, in the case of both congenital and acquired immunity. A key area is the pig and ruminant immune system, with a particular focus on dendritic cells, macrophages and the interferon system. This fundamental research is used directly in the development of new vaccines and in explaining the pathogenesis of viral infections.
Understanding viral disease through application of modern molecular and immunological methods
One focus of research is on the interaction between selected viruses and the host, especially the host's immune system. Conducted in close cooperation between the Virology and Immunology Departments, this research serves to improve our understanding of viral diseases. These efforts help to support fundamental research and modern disease control by increasing our knowledge of how viruses function and of the host's defence mechanisms. This is also an essential basis for the development of alternative methods to replace animal experimentation. The current areas of research are in the field of classical disease pathogens as well as pathogens with zoonotic potential, such as pestiviruses (classical swine fever and bovine viral diarrhoea), influenza viruses, coronaviruses, PRRSV, small ruminant lentiviruses and agents of the Japanese encephalitis virus serocomplex.
Translating molecular and immunological knowledge to innovative vaccine development
Various IVI research projects, based in both the Virology and the Immunology Department, are working on new vaccines for influenza, PRRSV, PEDV, foot and mouth disease, bluetongue, African horse sickness and other viral infections. We are researching and developing new vaccine platforms based on viral vectors, recombinant live attenuated vaccines, synthetic nanoparticles and more effective immunostimulants. Such research efforts enable us to develop efficient disease control and prevention. Moreover, they provide a basis for new vaccine development and improved control strategies which also have potential for application in the field of human medicine.
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