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Hunter Laboratory

Dr. Christopher Hunter's research team has been working on various aspects of basic parasitology since 198Hunter Laboratory, Penn Vet4.

For ​nearly 25 years, Dr. Hunter's team has focused on understanding how the immune response to Toxoplasma gondii is regulated to allow the development of protective immunity as well as to limit T cell mediated pathology in multiple sites including the gut and brain.

​Dr. Hunter has been working on various aspects of basic parasitology since 1984 and for the last 25 years there has been a focus on understanding how the protective immune response to Toxoplasma gondii develops and how this relates to other parasitic infections.

The Hunter Laboratory team has focused on the innate events that lead to the development of long term protective immunity mediated by T and B cells. These studies led us to develop expertise in cytokine biology and, while the focus has been in understanding their role in infectious disease, these findings are frequently relevant to cytokine function in autoimmunity and inflammatory processes associated with human disease.

For example, as part of studies to understand how IL-12 family members affect immunity to the T. gondii, we showed that IL-27 was important in limiting the T cell-mediated infection-induced inflammation. We have defined the mechanisms used by IL-27 to influence the immune system and our work has been shown to be relevant to inflammatory processes in multiple experimental systems that includes other infections as well as models of auto-immune inflammation, asthma and cancer.

Since toxoplasma causes a chronic infection in the brain there has been a long-term interest in the neuropathogenesis of infectious diseases and how lymphocytes access and operate in this immune privileged site.

In this laboratory we have developed all of the skills required for the routine analysis of multiple innate immune parameters and to quantify DC, macrophage, NK, T and B cell responses to infection.

We are also able to utilize different combinations of transgenic parasites (replication deficient, expressing fluorescent reporters, distinct model antigens OVA and E and the Cre recombinase) and TCR transgenic T cells to provide higher resolution analysis of individual parasite specific CD4 and CD8 T cell populations and apply multi-photon microscopy to image the innate and adaptive response to T. gondii.

As part of this research program Dr. Hunter has supervised more than 50 students from multiple programs that include Penn undergraduates, VMD summer students, graduate students from the Microbiology and Immunology graduate groups as well as combined degree (VMD/PhD and MD/PhD), and PhD candidates and undergraduates from the UK. He has been responsible for the training of 15 post-docs and 26 students (20 PhD, 3 Masters and 3 in training). 

Almost all of these individuals are still in science with trainees in faculty positions at the University of Washington, UPenn, UVA, Columbia, Yale, UMass, UC Riverside, University of Arkansas and six in faculty positions in Canada, Brazil, Japan and Europe, with several in industry (Pfizer, Medimmune), Science policy at Stanford and a Program Advisor to the Malaria Vaccine Initiative.

  • University of Glasgow Cormie Prize in Neurology (1991)
  • Irvington Research Scholar (1993-1996),
  • Burroughs Wellcome Young Investigator Award (1996-1999)
  • Pfizer Award for Research Excellence, (1997)
  • Elected Fellow of the American Society of Microbiology (2009)
  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2011)
  • Senior Investigator American Asthma Foundation (2012-2015)
  • Elected to the Council of the Midwinter Conference of Immunologists
  • Visiting Professor University of Edinburgh, (2015)
  • External Reviewer for NCI Cancer and inflammation program and the UVA infectious disease T32 program
  • Journal Clinical Investigation (2010-2012)
  • Consulting Editor JCI (ongoing)
  • Journal Experimental Medicine (2008-present)
  • Infection and Immunity, (1996-present)
  • Current Reviews in Immunology (2004-present), Medical Immunology (2003)
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Immunology, (1999-2003)
  • Associate Editor PloS Pathogens (2006)
  • Section Editor, Journal of Immunology, (2003-2007)
  • Microbes and Infection (2003-2007)
  • Journal Biological Chemistry (2006-2008)
  • Guest Editor Parasite Immunology (2005, 2015)
  • Guest Editor Immunological Reviews (2008)
  • Guest Editor Current Opinions Immunology (2015)
  • Woods Hole Biology of Parasitism course Module (2004-2007) and Course Director (2006,2007)
  • Organizer Woods Hole Immunoparasitology meeting (2007-08)
  • International Cytokine Society Meeting (2007, 2011)
  • BWF Parasitology T32 meeting (2008, 2009, 2010)
  • AAI Program Committee, 2007-2010)
  • Keystone Biology of Cytokines (2012)
  • Organization of the American Society of Microbiology, Infection and Immunity Forum (1996-1998)
  • Selection Committee for the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Young Investigator Award (1999)
  • Admissions Review Committee Biology of Parasitism Course (2000, 2004-2006)
  • Asilomar Mid-Winter meeting co-organizer with Ananda Goldrath (2015)
  • Biannual Toxoplasma Meeting, Gettysburg, Co-organized with David Roos (2015)