Controlling the Immune System

Unlocking the fundamental rules of immune control to facilitate the most precise personalized medicine and the broadest population-based vaccine and disease prevention strategies


  • Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies certain cells of the body as foreign like:
    • Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Systemic Lupus Eythematosus
  • Diseases can also occur when the immune system fails to distinguish healthy cells from unhealthy cells:
    • Cancer & Immune Deficiency Diseases
  • The immune system is continuously assessing the body and making decisions about what belongs and what does not. The ability to finely control the immune system remains a challenge in modern medicine.


  • Control the immune system to:
    • Understand differing outcomes;
    • Harness as therapeutic strategy. 
  • Two Lines of Investigation:
    1. Define population norms for immunity.
    2. Link basic immune knowledge to the clinic.


Local Impact at Duke

  • Improve the ability to transplant cells, tissues, and organs without the effects of non-specific immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Develop better treatments for cancer with a focus on curative cancer immunotherapy.
  • Enhance treatment and prevention of autoimmune diseases, such as Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, and Lupus.

​Global Impact

  • Create a greater impact on developing preventative therapies:
    • HIV vaccines
    • Cancer vaccine development
    • Vaccines against new infectious diseases
  • Enhance the ability to link immune responsiveness to disease susceptibility.
  • Improved the ability to anticipate disease, maintain health, and manage populations.