In autoimmunity, the immune system fails to recognize self and attacks healthy tissues. For example, in type 1 diabetes, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are attacked by autoreactive T cells. The Faustman Lab has identified a key family of immune cells responsible for regulating the immune response. This has led to the discovery of novel antibodies to correct this misregulation as well as a drug screening initiative to discover a role for existing and affordable therapies. Learn more:
For the last 20 years, the Faustman Lab has been the leader in investigating the potential of the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine to prevent and reverse autoimmune diseases including type 1 diabetes. This research has advanced from early mouse studies, moving to mechanistic, in vitro trials and now a multi-trial human clinical research program. The Faustman lab showed that BCG boosts a cytokine called TNF, which is beneficial in autoimmune diseases by directly eliminating the autoreactive T cells that attack the pancreas, as well as by inducing beneficial immune cells called regulatory T cells (Tregs).
In 2018 the Faustman Lab announced long term data on BCG treated patients followed for more than five years. All of the patients in the studies showed a durable and significant improvement in HbA1c. Learn More:
In cancer, the immune system is tricked into not attacking the cancerous cells. The Faustman lab identified a population of regulatory immune cells essential to turning the immune system back on. This has led to the generation of a novel class of antibodies specific to the tumor microenviromonment. Learn more:
A growing body of data suggests that BCG vaccination may have benefits beyond the prevention of tuberculosis, or “off-target” effects including prevention of non-tuberculosis-related infections, including upper respiratory infections, and reduced mortality. New and very preliminary data suggests large-scale BCG vaccination may have a role in preventing COVID-19 morbidity and mortality and may explain the variability that has been seen across borders and age groups. Collectively, these studies highlight the potential of BCG vaccines that focus on trained immunity for cross-protection against diverse respiratory infectious diseases, including COVID-19. The Faustman Lab is actively organizing a BCG clinical trial of “at risk” healthcare workers to protect against COVID-19 infection and associated complications. Learn more: