Infectious diseases constitute major public health problem in developing countries and the ILS vision is to acquire insights into biology of pathogens, pathogenesis of disease progression and evolution of pathogens in the context of their relationship to human genetics. It is critical to understand evolution of pathogens in the context of millions of years of evolution of species and to factor-in several intervention strategies such as drugs and vaccines that are in use only during the past one-century. While insights into pathogen biology at molecular and cellular levels are vital, it is also crucial to understand the larger picture of interactions between different pathogens in human communities.
The research programme of ILS strategically plans to address issues on infectious disease biology in experimental as well as human models. The mission is to use cutting edge technology in modern biology to acquire insights into pathogen biology, immune-regulation and protective immunity and inflammatory processes at cellular and molecular levels. Short-term deliverables will be use of nanotechnology for effective targeted delivery of existing drugs, development of transgenic plants for expression of viral, bacterial and parasite proteins and development of DNA chip-based assays as tools for diagnosis. Attempts on in immunotherapy and immunoprophylaxis are often unsuccessful due to poor knowledge of disease pathogenesis – rational approaches to vaccine development are dependant on understanding protective immunity operational in infected hosts, insights into which could be possible only through clearer understanding of disease pathogenesis. Investigations on immune responses and immune-regulatory mechanisms coupled with pathogen variability in human population (molecular ecology) will be addressed along with detailed analysis of genetic polymorphism of host genes that are involved in immune response and immune-regulation. The ILS plans to undertake high throughput genome analysis of the tribal population to correlate genetic polymorphism with susceptibility/resistance to infectious diseases. This is an area of activity in which cutting edge science could contribute directly to welfare of underprivileged subjects. Co-infections in human communities are critical issues often overlooked by investigators working with infectious pathogens. Experimental animal models are limited by use of genetically ‘clean’ animals disregarding co-infections, which often is a confounding factor in acquiring insights on infections in human communities.
Keeping in view diverse host responses to different prevalent pathogens, ILS proposes to undertake investigations on disease spread by taking a ‘Systems Biology’ approach that would assist in developing mathematical models for computational analysis of infections in human communities. Such an approach is also expected to offer insights into empirical testing of hygiene hypothesis, which essentially predicts that subjects living in developed nations have become more susceptible to allergies and autoimmune diseases due to high level of hygiene and absence of common infections. The hypothesis, attractive as it is, has not been conclusively proven and ILS with its emphasis on infectious disease biology is well placed to address hygiene hypothesis at cellular, molecular and population levels. These activities to be taken up by a team of highly motivated competent faculty at ILS will also result in producing a large pool of internationally competitive manpower for undertaking basic laboratory research as well as training clinician scientists.