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Pepper Lab

Investigating antigen specific adaptive immune cells to better design vaccines and therapeutics

The Seattle Hub for Synthetic Biology is a collaboration between Allen Institute, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the University of Washington.

The Pepper Lab

In the Pepper Lab, researchers study how cells of the adaptive immune system, called CD4+ T cells and B cells, form immunological memory by visualizing their differentiation, retention and function in both mice and humans. They accomplish this by using novel tetramer-based enrichment strategies to study small populations of antigen specific CD4+ T and B cells in both complex infectious diseases such as malaria as well as during allergic asthma using a house dust mite model. They additionally use transgenic mice with various genetic ablations to interrogate the underlying molecular mechanisms involved in memory cell development and function.

Marion Pepper headshot
Marion Pepper, Ph.D., Co-Director, Seattle Hub for Synthetic Biology; Professor & Chair of Immunology, University of Washington

Research Details

The Pepper Lab studies the adaptive immune system with the goal of generating protective T and B cells in response to a variety of infectious diseases including those caused by parasites, viruses and bacteria. Research in the Pepper Lab during the COVID pandemic found that “certain “memory” cells that were produced following infection with the coronavirus [were functional and could] persist for at least three months in the body,” (New York Times, 2021).

The Pepper lab also is working on understanding how to dampen immune memory responses in allergic diseases. Research on dust mite allergy in the Pepper Lab has shown that “lung-resident cells were sufficient to induce airway hyper-responsiveness, which depended upon CD4(+) T cells,” (Immunity, 2016).  Our lab is now focused on understanding the persistence and function of these cells in an effort to create novel therapeutic targets for allergic disease.

The SeaHub project will draw on the Pepper Lab’s expertise in immune memory and create novel tools to enhance our understanding of the cells that determine health or disease. They will focus on developing immune cells that can record signals sequentially and longitudinally. This will allow them to better understand how T cells that are pathological or optimally protective are generated such that they can be eventually targeted by novel therapeutics.

Derek Bangs

University of Washington / Pepper Lab

Jason Netland

University of Washington / Pepper Lab

Kurt Pruner

University of Washington / Pepper Lab

Gretchen Harms Pritchard

University of Washington / Pepper Lab

Madeleine Weiss

University of Washington / Pepper Lab

Dan Carr

University of Washington / Pepper Lab

Science Programs at Allen Institute