Rafi Ahmed, PhD
Rafi Ahmed, PhD
Rafi Ahmed is the Director of the Emory Vaccine Center. The research in his laboratory focuses on adaptive immune responses to vaccination and viral infection. His goal is to understand the mechanisms of immunological memory and to use this knowledge to develop new and more effective vaccines.
Ahmed studies immunological memory – the ability of the immune system to “remember” a particular antigen and respond accordingly. Dr. Ahmed and his colleagues have made significant discoveries about how immune memory cells are created and how long they survive; understanding these mechanisms is crucial to the development of vaccines for HIV and other infectious agents. In addition to contributing vitally to vaccine science, Dr. Ahmed’s findings are being applied to research into therapies for the treatment of cancer and the prevention of organ rejection. The mechanism of viral persistence remains a major unresolved problem and our goal is to understand how viruses evade or suppress the immune response and persist in vivo. We are using two natural models of viral persistence. 1) Infection of mice with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus provides an excellent model for studying the interaction between the virus and the immune system of its natural host, and in defining conditions that lead to viral clearance or persistence. We are also using this system to address fundamental questions about immunological memory. 2) Infection of rabbits with Shope papillomavirus allows one to examine the immune response during various stages of neoplasia; during papilloma development, during spontaneous regression, and during progression to carcinoma. Our approach is to combine the disciplines of virology and immunology to attain a better understanding of virus vs. host interaction.