Dr Geert Vanden Bossche: The immune biology of natural and immune escape pandemics/ epidemics

Course Leader:

Dr Geert Vanden Bossche, vaccinologist, creative thinker, innovator, entrepreneur and visionary

Course Duration: 12 weeks, 90 mins a session

Start date: Wednesday 27th September

Sessions: Wednesday, 6:00 pm BST/GMT / 1:00 pm ET

Link to enrol: The immune biology of natural and immune escape pandemics/ epidemics

Course Outline

This course aims to provide comprehensive insights into the intricate interplay between pathogens and the host immune system. It will illuminate how this interaction influences the evolutionary dynamics of viral immune evasion and the adaptive responses of the host immune system. Furthermore, the course will demonstrate how populations establish herd immunity to combat global pandemics caused by acute, self-limiting infections, consequently pushing the pathogen towards endemicity. By examining the evolution of natural immunity during a pandemic, students will comprehend the delicate balance between minimizing human loss and allowing pathogen survival. Moreover, students will gain knowledge about the distinctions between global pandemics (eg. SARS-CoV-2), multi-country epidemics (eg. SARS, MERS), and localized epidemics, along with their implications for public health interventions.

Above all, this course emphasizes that complex public and global health issues demand a holistic and multidisciplinary approach from scientists. It will guide students on effectively addressing intricate challenges posed by emerging infections by assembling valuable insights from various disciplines within the Life Sciences, including evolutionary biology, microbiology, immunology, biochemistry, biophysics, vaccinology, and related subjects. By delving into the immune pathogenesis and immune recovery of acute, self-limiting viral diseases, as well as recognizing the transient nature of the pandemics they trigger, students will be well-informed in this field.

They will also comprehend why even the most modern technologies cannot override and control the natural biological forces that drive the mutual interaction between immune selection pressure and pathogen infectiousness. Given the ‘acute’/ emergent threat posed by pandemics of acute self-limiting infections, special emphasis will be placed upon SARS-CoV-2 as the cause of the initial pandemic and of SARS-CoV variants as the cause of the ongoing immune escape pandemic. It will be explained how mass vaccination promotes immune escape and how training of the innate immune system can sterilize immune escape variants at an early stage of infection. Parallels will be drawn with periodic epidemics, pandemics of chronic viral (e.g., HIV), bacterial (e.g., TB) or parasitic infections (e.g., Malaria) and lessons be learned about the consequences of human intervention (infection-prevention measures, vaccination, anti-infective drugs) versus strengthening natural immune defenses. Completion of the course will also help students to understand how and why mass vaccination of humans against acute self-limiting viral infections can promote the spread of multi-country epidemics of other diseases (e.g., H5N1) in animals susceptible to reverse zoonosis or promote epidemics of other zoonotic diseases in highly vaccinated countries (e.g., Monkeypox).

Overall, students who accomplish this course will become aware that evolution has shaped a highly sophisticate ecosystem enabling a delicate symbiosis between the pathogen and his host and that profound perturbation of the host immune system and/ or the infectious pathogenic load will entail widespread repercussions on the overall ecosystem, which successfully resulted from natural selection.

Learning Outcomes

On completion, this course will enable you to:-

  • Gain an understanding of the origins and evolutionary dynamics of natural pandemics/epidemics and their impact on infectivity, mortality, and morbidity rates.
  • Acquire knowledge on effective and humane methods for rapid control of pandemics or epidemics.
  • Identify and explain the immune mechanisms that facilitate viral immune escape, such as original antigenic sin, immune refocusing, and immune selection pressure, as well as those mechanisms that prevent viral immune escape, such as sterilizing immunity.
  • Comprehend how mass vaccination during a pandemic caused by a pathogen that induces acute, self-limiting infection drives the dynamics of pathogen immune escape. Provide logical explanations for the sequence of immune escape events.
  • Understand why vaccine breakthrough infections contribute to the evolutionary dynamics of the pathogen.
  • Explain how mRNA vaccines expedite pathogen immune escape.
  • Explore the probable relationship between the pandemic of SARS-CoV-2 escape variants and the emergence or expansion of new or existing epidemics, as well as the increased incidence of acute autoreactive disease or ‘cancerogenesis’ in highly C-19 vaccinated populations.
  • Understand the roles of natural immunity and trained innate immunity in controlling a natural pandemic and a pandemic characterized by immune escape variants, respectively.

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About Geert Vanden Bossche PhD

Dr Vanden Bossche received his DVM from the University of Ghent, Belgium, and his PhD degree in Virology from the University of Hohenheim, Germany. He held adjunct faculty appointments at universities in Belgium and Germany. After his career in Academia, Geert joined several vaccine companies (GSK Biologicals, Novartis Vaccines, Solvay Biologicals) to serve various roles in vaccine R&D as well as in late vaccine development. Geert then moved on to join the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Discovery team in Seattle (USA) as Senior Program Officer; he then worked with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) in Geneva as Senior Ebola Program Manager. At GAVI he tracked efforts to develop an Ebola vaccine. He also represented GAVI in fora with other partners, including WHO, to review progress on the fight against Ebola and to build plans for global pandemic preparedness. Geert subsequently joined the German Center for Infection Research in Cologne as Head of the Vaccine Development Office. Until early 2021 Geert has primarily been serving as a Biotech/ Vaccine consultant while also conducting his own research on Natural Killer cell-based vaccines.

As a creative thinker, innovator, entrepreneur and visionary, Geert has been invited to speak at multiple international congresses. His work and supportive advice are driven by a strong motivation to translate scientific breakthrough findings into competitive solutions to emerging challenges in public and global health.

Besides his passion for the Life Sciences, Geert has also a strong passion for the truth. Back in 2015, he scrutinized and questioned the safety of the Ebola vaccine that was used in ring vaccination trials conducted by WHO in Guinea. His critical scientific analysis and report on the data published by WHO in the Lancet in 2015 was sent to all international health and regulatory authorities involved in the Ebola vaccination program.

Since March 2021, Dr Vanden Bossche became world famous for warning Humanity against the health danger of conducting mass vaccination programs during a pandemic. His countless scientific contributions, both orally and in writing, can be found on the website of Voice for Science and Solidarity, the organization he founded in 2021.

Read Geert’s detailed curriculum vitae prior to his engagement in the Covid-19 crisis.


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