CRC 1648
CRC 1648 Emerging Viruses: Pathogenesis, Structure, Immunity
CRC 1648 Research Areas
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
CRC 1648 Research Areas
Participating institutions
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
Participating institutions

New Collaborative Research Centre 1648

As announced by the German Research Foundation (DFG) on May 31st, the UKE will receive a new Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1648 - "Emerging Viruses: Pathogenesis, Structure, Immunity"

The World Health Organization (WHO) has presented a list of diseases that have the potential to cause future epidemics. These diseases should be prioritized in the development of diagnostics, medications, and vaccines. Common among the diseases on the current WHO Blueprint Priority List, such as Lassa fever, Ebola virus disease, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), is that they are caused by RNA viruses.

The CRC 1648, which will receive approximately 10.8 million euros from the DFG over the next four years, aims to research the fundamental structures and mechanisms of these viral infections. The goal is to improve therapeutic and preventive measures and enable faster responses to outbreaks.

The project involves 26 researchers from the UKE, UHH, Leibniz Institute of Virology (LIV), Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM), Friedrich Loeffler Institut (FLI), Hannover Medical School (MHH), Universität zu Lübeck and University Hospital Basel. Together, they will work on understanding infection processes even more precisely at the molecular level. To this end, they will use state-of-the-art techniques from cell and structural biology, computational biology, immunology and biochemistry.

CRCs are long-term, interdisciplinary research collaborations that are funded over a maximum of twelve years and three phases. In this way, the DFG supports excellent and comprehensive collaborative projects in basic research.

Marylyn Addo , Director of IIRVD, is the speaker of the CRC 1648.
Maya Topf from LIV/UKE/ CSSB and Chris Meier from UHH are the co-speakers.

Press Release



Portrait of newcomers

The "SYNERGIE" magazine of the German Centers for Health Research (DZG) is published twice a year and provides information on projects and successes in translational research.

In the current issue, Dr. Toni Luise Meister talks about her career in infection research to date and her work as head of a junior research group funded by the DZIF.

Link to the article in SYNERGIE magazine (article in German)

Contact T. Meister


Graphical abstract
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
Graphical abstract
© Cell Press

Mechanism for immune evasion of SARS-CoV-2 identified

An international research team, including Angelique Hölzemer, associate group leader at the IIRVD, has demonstrated how SARS-CoV-2 and its variants evade the human immune system. The results of the study indicate that cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 downregulate important immune signals, namely NKG2D ligands. These ligands play a pivotal role in activating the immune system, particularly natural killer cells (NK cells), in order to combat viral infections.

These findings could contribute to the development of new therapeutic approaches against Covid-19, particularly given that the study also demonstrates the importance of NK cells in combating SARS-CoV-2-infected cells.

Hartmann JA, Cardoso MR, Talarico MCR, Kenney DJ, Leone MR, Reese DC, Turcinovic J, O'Connell AK, Gertje HP, Marino C, Ojeda PE, De Paula EV, Orsi FA, Velloso LA, Cafiero TR, Connor JH, Ploss A, Hoelzemer A, Carrington M, Barczak AK, Crossland NA, Douam F, Boucau J, Garcia-Beltran WF. Evasion of NKG2D-mediated cytotoxic immunity by sarbecoviruses. Cell. 2024 May 9;187(10):2393-2410.e14. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2024.03.026. Epub 2024 Apr 22. PMID: 38653235 Hartmann et al

Angelique Hölzemer is a specialist at the I. Medical Clinic and Polyclinic of the UKE and head of the Infection & Immune Regulation working group at the IIRVD and the Leibniz Institute of Virology (LIV).



Ehren-Schleusenwärter at BNITM

In her role as 'Ehren-Alster-Schleusenwärterin', Marylyn Addo invited other 'Ehren-Alster-Schleusenwärter and 'Ehren-Alster-Schleusenwärterinnen' to the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) to introduce her field of work. Prof. Jürgen May, Director of the BNITM, began with a presentation on the history of the BNITM.

The 'Congregation der Alster-Schleusenwärter S.C.' appoints one or more 'Ehren-Schleusenwärter' each year. This award is given to individuals who have enhanced the reputation of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg in the world through special achievements.


New Review

Valentin Bärreiter and Toni Meister have published a new review on renal implications of coronavirus disease in the journal Current Opinion in Microbiology.

Click here to read the Review


Congratulations, Dr. Mayer!

Leonie Mayer has very successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled: "Spike-specific T cell immunity following vaccination against the human coronaviruses SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV".

The IIRVD sincerely congratulates her on her success!

Publication List L. Mayer publications


New Publication on the immunogenicity of MVA-based vaccine candidates against COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple vaccines were developed using platforms such as viral vectors and mRNA technology. Here, we report humoral and cellular immunogenicity data from human phase 1 clinical trials investigating two SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates: Based on the recombinant viral vector Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (rMVA), MVA-SARS-2-S (link to NCT04569383) and MVA-SARS-2-ST (link to NCT04895449) encode the native and the prefusion-stabilized SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, respectively. MVA-SARS-2-ST was more immunogenic than MVA-SARS-2-S, but both were less immunogenic compared to licensed mRNA- and ChAd-based vaccines in SARS-CoV-2 naïve individuals. In heterologous vaccination, previous MVA-SARS-2-S vaccination enhanced T cell functionality and MVA-SARS-2-ST boosted the frequency of T cells and S1-specific IgG levels when used as a third vaccination. While the vaccine candidate containing the prefusion-stabilized spike elicited predominantly S1-specific humoral and T cell responses, immunity to the candidate with the native spike was skewed towards S2-specific responses. These data demonstrate how the spike antigen conformation, using the same viral vector, directly affects vaccine immunogenicity in humans.

Leonie Mayer, Leonie M. Weskamm, Anahita Fathi, Maya Kono, Jasmin Heidepriem, Verena Krähling, Sibylle C. Mellinghoff, My Linh Ly, Monika Friedrich, Svenja Hardtke, Saskia Borregaard, Thomas Hesterkamp, Felix F. Loeffler, Asisa Volz, Gerd Sutter, Stephan Becker, Christine Dahlke, Marylyn M. Addo. MVA-based vaccine candidates encoding the native or prefusion-stabilized SARS-CoV-2 spike reveal differential immunogenicity in humans. npj Vaccines 2024 Jan 26;9(1):20. doi: 10.1038/s41541-023-00801-z

Mayer and Weskamm et al

Contact Leonie Mayer


New Publication on the CD8+ epitope response following MVA-MERS-S vaccination

Harrer & Mayer et al. used an epitope-mapping approach to identify for the first time in humans a MERS-CoV-spike-specific CD8+ T-cell epitope (amino acid sequence: GLFPYQGDHGDMYVY), which is likely HLA-B*35:01 restricted.

Licensed vaccines against the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), an emerging pathogen of concern, are lacking. The Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara vector-based vaccine MVA-MERS-S, expressing the MERS-CoV-spike glycoprotein (MERS-S), is one of three candidate vaccines in clinical development and elicits robust humoral and cellular immunity ( link to MERS 1a trial ). Here, we identified for the first time a MERS-S-specific CD8+ T-cell epitope in an HLA-A*03:01/HLA-B*35:01-positive vaccinee using a screening assay, intracellular cytokine staining, and in silico epitope prediction. As evidence from MERS-CoV infection suggests a protective role of long-lasting CD8+ T-cell responses, the identification of epitopes will facilitate longitudinal analyses of vaccine-induced T-cell immunity.

Caroline E. Harrer, Leonie Mayer, Anahita Fathi, Susan Lassen, My L. Ly, Madeleine E. Zinser, MVA-MERS-S Study Group, Timo Wolf, Stephan Becker, Gerd Sutter, Christine Dahlke, Marylyn M. Addo. Identification of a spike-specific CD8+ T cell epitope following vaccination against the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in humans. The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2024 Jan 19; jiad612 [online ahead of print]. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiad612

This project is a result of an MD stipend funded by the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF).

Harrer and Mayer et al

Contact Leonie Mayer


Copyright: AdWHH / Jann Wilken

Marylyn Addo has been elected as a new member of the Academy of Sciences in Hamburg

The eight new members were officially welcomed at the Academy's annual public celebration in Hamburg on November 17, 2023 ( Link ). The picture shows Prof. Dr. Mojib Latif, President of the Academy, handing over the membership certificate to Marylyn Addo.

The Hamburg Parliament founded the Academy of Sciences in Hamburg in 2004 in order to intensify research across disciplinary and institutional boundaries and to increase the visibility of the scientific region of northern Germany. Renowned scientists from northern Germany are involved in the academy. The academy was conceived as a workplace. Its members develop interdisciplinary research topics in working groups and project groups. These projects deal with important social issues and fundamental scientific problems. In addition, the Academy promotes discussion between science and the public on these topics.


The IIRVD welcomes its new members

In October, the IIRVD is pleased to welcome four new scientists.

Valentin Bärreiter is embarking on his PhD thesis, while Toni Louise Meister joins as Senior Postdoc with the DZIF-funded position in the research area of "Emerging Infections".

Mascha Binder from the Universitätsspital Basel, Switzerland and Christoph Lange from the Research Center Borstel are visiting scholars who will work closely with the IIRVD in the future.

The IIRVD extends a warm welcome to the new staff members and values their highly qualified support.


Marylyn Addo receives Federal Cross of Merit
Marylyn Addo receives Federal Cross of Merit
Picture: © BWFGB

Marylyn Addo receives Federal Cross of Merit

Prof. Addo was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit with Ribbon for her outstanding medical and scientific achievements in the research of infectious diseases such as HIV, Ebola and Covid-19 as well as for her dedicated social commitment.
Marylyn Addo received the award from Science Senator Katharina Fegebank on August 25, 2023 in recognition of her achievements. In her speech, Prof. Addo explained that she was accepting the order on behalf of all those who made important contributions to care and medical services during the pandemic, as well as now, and for scientists in a variety of disciplines.


Kletterwald 1
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
© S. Petereit
Kletterwald 2
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
© S. Petereit

IIRVD Summer Team Event

In summery temperatures the IIRVD spent a great afternoon in the Kletterwald Hamburg.

Everyone mastered their personal challenge and had their own personal sense of achievement.

It was a lot of fun for everyone, whether on the ground or in the trees.


Weskamm Disputation
© S. Hardtke

Congratulations, Dr. Weskamm!

Leonie Marie Weskamm has successfully defended her doctoral thesis entitled: "Characterization of B cell and antibody responses induced by vaccination against the human coronaviruses MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2".

We sincerely congratulate her on her success.

Publication List L. M. Weskamm


Anahita Fathi wins Meta-Alexander-Prize 2023
Anahita Fathi wins Meta-Alexander-Prize 2023

Anahita Fathi wins the Meta-Alexander Prize for Clinical Infection Research

This year's 2023 Meta-Alexander Prize for Clinical Infection Research was awarded to Dr. Anahita Fathi for her work "Increased neutralization and IgG epitope identification after MVA-MERS-S booster vaccination against Middle East respiratory syndrom" published in Nature Communications.

This science prize of the German Society of Infectious Diseases ( DGI ) Prize was awarded during the 16th Congress of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine in Leipzig.

Original publication:

Fathi, A., Dahlke, C., Krähling, V. et al. Increased neutralization and IgG epitope identification after MVA-MERS-S booster vaccination against Middle East respiratory syndrome. Nat Commun 13, 4182 (2022). Open access

This year, the Meta-Alexander-Prize was split between two winners.

Picture: Photographer Tom Dachs/ Copyright: @Tom Dachs/KIT2023


Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
IIRVD HafenCity Run 2023 Team "GO VIRAL"
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
IIRVD HafenCity Run 2023 Team "GO VIRAL"

HafenCity Run 2023

On June 3, 2023, the motivated team "GO VIRAL" of the IIRVD participated in the HafenCity Run. The HafenCity Run combines sports, team spirit and charity in one event.

With its participation, the IIRVD supports the charitable projects of the charity partner Hamburger Abendblatt hilft e.V..


Diversity Day IIRVD 2023
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
Diversity Day IIRVD 2023

Diversity-Tag 2023

The IIRVD also wants to set a sign for more diversity. By wearing different socks, we jointly set a sign for diversity in society and in the working world.


World Immunization Week 2023

Interview with Prof. Dr. Addo on protection through vaccination

On the occasion of the World Immunization Week 2023 initiated by the WHO, Prof. Dr. Marylyn Addo explains which infectious diseases children and adults should be vaccinated against, whether vaccinations missed due to the pandemic can be catched up for and which vaccines her institute is currently investigating. (Video in German)

Leonie Mayer im Labor

Leonie Mayer on her motivation to research vaccines.

Leonie Mayer, a doctoral student in natural sciences at the IIRVD, talks about her research at the institute in an Instagram post.Her doctoral research involves examining samples from the institute's clinical trials to find out how immune responses follow vaccinations. With her research findings, she hopes to help improve vaccines and help as many people as possible.

Link to videos.


Graphical abstract
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
Graphical abstract
Weskamm et al, 2022 STAR Protocols

New publication on flow cytometric characterization of memory B cells directed against SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins.

Memory B cells (MBCs), part of the immune response elicited by infection or vaccination, can persist in lymphoid organs and peripheral blood and are capable of rapid reactivation upon secondary antigen exposure. Here, we describe a flow cytometric assay to identify SARS-CoV-2 spike-specific MBCs from peripheral blood mononuclear cells and characterize their isotypes and activation status.

Leonie M. Weskamm, Christine Dahlke, Marylyn M. Addo. Flow cytometric protocol to characterize human memory B cells directed against SARS-CoV-2 spike protein antigens. STAR Protocols 2022 Dec 16; 4(3):101902. doi: 10.1016/j.xpro.2022.101902

Weskamm et al

Contact Leonie Marie Weskamm


Why does a small injection helps against infectious diseases?

On November 14, 2022, Prof. Addo gave a presentation at the "Kinder-Uni Hamburg" ( Link ).

In her lecture, Prof. Addo explained to the young audience why certain infectious diseases can spread quickly around the world, how these diseases are treated and how vaccines can help. She also gave tips on what everyone can do to protect themselves from viruses.

Further information on the Kinder-Uni Hamburg can be found here .


Binding and neutralizing antibodies after vaccination
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
Binding and neutralizing antibodies after MVA-MERS-S vaccination
Memory B cells after vaccination
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
Memory B cells after MVA-MERS-S vaccination
Antibody isotypes und subclasses after vaccination
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
Antibody isotypes und subclasses after MVA-MERS-S vaccination

New publication on the B and T cell responses elicited by the MVA-MERS-S vaccine candidate

Weskamm et al. longitudinally describe B and T cell responses as well as antibody subclasses and neutralization capacity induced by three homologous immunizations with the MVA-MERS-S vaccine candidate.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a respiratory disease caused by MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV). In follow-up to a phase 1 trial , we perform a longitudinal analysis of immune responses following immunization with the Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA)-based vaccine MVA-MERS-S encoding the MERS-CoV-spike protein. Three homologous immunizations were administered on days 0 and 28 with a late booster vaccination at 12±4 months. Antibody isotypes, subclasses and neutralization capacity as well as T and B cell responses were monitored over a period of three years using standard and bead-based ELISA, PRNT50, ELISpot and flowcytometry. The late booster immunization significantly increases frequency and persistence of spike-specific B cells, binding IgG1 and neutralizing antibodies, but not T cell responses. Our data highlight the potential of a late boost to enhance long-term antibody and B cell immunity against MERS-CoV. Our findings on the MVA-MERS-S vaccine may be of relevance for COVID-19 vaccination strategies.

Weskamm LM, Fathi A, Raadsen MP, Mykytyn AZ, Koch T, Spohn M, Friedrich M; MVA-MERS-S Study Group, Haagmans BL, Becker S, Sutter G, Dahlke C, Addo MM. Persistence of MERS-CoV-spike-specific B cells and antibodies after late third immunization with the MVA-MERS-S vaccine. Cell Rep Med. 2022 Jul 19;3(7):100685. doi: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2022.100685. Weskamm et al.

Contact Leonie Marie Weskamm


Study design and trial profile
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
Study design and trial profile
Increase in anti-MERS-CoV-S-specific binding antibodies after booster vaccination measured by ELISA.
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
Increase in anti-MERS-CoV-S-specific binding antibodies
Increase in MERS-CoV neutralizing antibodies after booster vaccination.
Lupe zum Vergrößern des Bildes
Increase in MERS-CoV neutralizing antibodies after booster

New publication on the MVA-MERS-S booster vaccination in Nature Communications

Fathi et al. evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of a third vaccination with MVA-MERS-S in a subgroup of trial participants one year after primary immunization Link to vaccine trial . The results show that MVA-MERS-S booster vaccination is safe and well-tolerated. Both binding and neutralizing anti-MERS-CoV antibody titers increase substantially in all participants and exceed maximum titers observed after primary immunization more than 10-fold.

The data by Fathi et al. support the rationale of a booster vaccination with MVA-MERS-S and encourage further investigation in larger trials.

Fathi A, Dahlke C, Krähling V, Kupke A, Okba NMA, Raadsen MP, Heidepriem J, Müller MA, Paris G, Lassen S, Klüver M, Volz A, Koch T, Ly ML, Friedrich M, Fux R, Tscherne A, Kalodimou G, Schmiedel S, Corman VM, Hesterkamp T, Drosten C, Loeffler FF, Haagmans BL, Sutter G, Becker S, Addo MM. Increased neutralization and IgG epitope identification after MVA-MERS-S booster vaccination against Middle East respiratory syndrome. Nat Commun. 2022 Jul 19;13(1):4182. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-31557-0 Fathi et al.

Contact Anahita Fathi, Clinician Scientist


Heinz Ansmann Award
Heinz Ansmann Award

Prof. Dr. Addo honored for HIV research

Prof. Dr. Marylyn Addo, Director of the Institute for Infection Research and Vaccine Development, has been awarded the Heinz Ansmann Prize for AIDS Research 2022. The Heinz Ansmann foundation honored her work on immune control of HIV infection and transfer of knowledge to other viral diseases with pandemic potential. Prof. Dr. Addo accepted the 10,000 euro prize on June 13, 2022 at Schloss Mickeln in Düsseldorf. Prof. Florian Klein from Cologne was awarded the 2020 Price the same day.

Read more.