Shedding Light on Immunity in Johns Hopkins-MedImmune Collaboration

Shedding Light on Immunity in Johns Hopkins-MedImmune Collaboration

Lloyd_MillerResearch coming out of the lab of one Johns Hopkins doctor is illuminating the nature of protective immunity to infections—literally.

Lloyd Miller, associate professor of dermatology, infectious diseases and orthopedic surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has developed a way to study bacterial infection and immune responses by visualizing the dynamics of bioluminescent bacteria and fluorescent immune cells during an infection.

Miller’s research is helping MedImmune, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins, develop antibodies that target a deadly pathogen, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Miller says.

“MedImmune is collaborating with us because our techniques of noninvasive bioluminescence and fluorescence imaging provide real-time information about bacterial burden and immune response for rapid feedback and improvements,” Miller explains. This research is part of a five-year, $6.5 million collaboration between Johns Hopkins and MedImmune.

MedImmune is using the information gleaned from Miller’s work to develop a therapeutic agent—a monoclonal antibody—that targets virulence mechanisms of MRSA bacteria, which cause skin infections and other invasive and often life-threatening infections, such as sepsis, endocarditis, osteomyelitis and pneumonia, Miller says.

“The idea is to develop a therapy that can prevent patients from becoming infected or reduce their risk of disease complications or mortality should they become infected by the bacteria,” Miller explains.

Miller has been a pioneer in the field of visualizing infections and immune responses in preclinical models for nearly 15 years, including the past three years at Johns Hopkins and, before that, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.