Individualised Medicine for Viral Infections

Opportunistic infections remain a serious threat to immunocompromised individuals, such as transplant recipients. We study opportunistic herpes viruses, such as the cytomegalovirus (CMV) by developing unique technologies for real-time measurement of virus growth, allowing us rapid identification of antiviral activity of primary samples and virtually any immune cell subset. This allows us to identify at-risk populations and develop targeted antiviral therapies for treatment and prevention of opportunistic viral infections.

In the course of the COVID pandemic, our expertise in virus genetics was used to clone pseudoviruses expressing variants of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein for the assessment of the neutralization capacity of sera or monoclonal antibodies, and this technology is pursued in the identification of correlates of immune protection in vaccinated or convalescent populations. We team with local and international teams of physicians and epidemiologists, providing technical support and scientific advice on complex laboratory serological diagnostics.

In March 2019, Prof Dr. Dr. Luka Cicin-Sain was jointly appointed by the MHH (Hannover Medical School) and HZI (Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research) as CIIM Professor for "Individualised Medicine of Viral Infections", and as of 2021 he leads the CiiM-associated Department of “Viral Immunology” (VIRI) at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig.

Prof Dr Dr Luka Cicin-Sain


Prof Dr Dr Luka Cicin-Sain
Department head

Research focus

Our research focuses on the analysis of the immune response to viral infections, with a strong focus on clinically relevant infection, such as the Cytomegalovirus (CMV) or Severe Acute respiratory Distress Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). CMV is the most common congenital infectious cause and a widespread opportunistic pathogen that latently persists in most people worldwide. Virus reactivation typically occurs in individuals with weakened immune systems, whether due to illness, immunosuppression after organ transplantation, or older individuals with age-related immune weakening. We aim to identify the cellular reservoirs of CMV latency, identify immune mechanisms preventing virus reactivation and determine optimal antigenic targets for adoptive T-cell immunotherapy.

Our other focus is to identify serological correlates of immune protection against COVID, to expedite developments and clinical monitoring of future universal and non-waning COVID vaccines.