Judith Margarete Gottwein

Judith Margarete Gottwein

Associate Professor

My research group is passionate about basic and translational virology. Our long-term research focus is hepatitis C virus (HCV). With more than 58 million chronically infected and about 290.000 deaths per year, this virus poses a severe public health burden. We are developing an urgently needed vaccine. In addition, we are looking into HCV resistance to direct acting antivirals. In addition, we are interested in emerging viruses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked on topics relevant for control of SARS-CoV-2, including studies of antivirals and associated resistance as well as vaccine development.

Key achievements

My team recently identified determinants of HCV neutralizing epitope exposure and developed frontrunner whole virus inactivated HCV vaccine candidates exposing conserved conformation-sensitive neutralizing epitopes associated with protection against chronic infection in humans (Alzua&Pihl, Hepatology, InPress; Alzua, Gut, InPress, Pihl, JHepatol, 2022). Previously, my teams pioneered development of HCV cell culture systems and establishment of bioprocesses for the HCV vaccine candidates, which we also applied to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate. Further, I contributed to research on HCV neutralizing antibodies. Moreover, my teams pioneered studies on antiviral efficacy and resistance for HCV and SARS-CoV-2.

Current and future research

There is a large need for antiviral vaccines. A prophylactic vaccine is urgently needed to control HCV on a global level. We are developing and testing HCV vaccine candidates, including development of required bioprocesses for vaccine production. We are interested in using the established technologies for the development of vaccines for other human viruses, for which vaccines are needed. To efficiently guide vaccine design, we elucidate correlates of antiviral protective immunity, focusing on studies of neutralizing antibodies.

Moreover, we aim to identify and study antivirals that can efficiently combat viral infections, and we focus on investigating how viruses can escape from antivirals, rendering them inefficient. At present, we are elucidating genetic correlates and mechanisms underlying HCV and SARS-CoV-2 resistance to antivirals. Even though recently efficient direct acting antivirals that can cure chronic HCV infection have been developed, resistance to these compounds is emerging with the risk of spread in human populations. For SARS-CoV-2 efficient direct antivirals are only starting to emerge; we are tracking resistance development and investigating combination treatments with efficacy against emerging variants.

Access my OrcID profile at: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2805-0256

Access my Google scholar profile: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=PkkiYwUAAAAJ&hl=de

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