About the Steven Varga Lab 

Our laboratory studies the innate and adaptive immune response to respiratory viruses. We have a particular focus on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the leading cause of lower respiratory infections in infants, as well as influenza and SARS-CoV-2. Other areas of investigation include collaborative research projects on cancer immunology and T-cell exhaustion during chronic infections and cancer.

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The Team

The Varga Lab has an experienced team of infectious disease researchers who leverage an expansive skillset to progress respiratory virus and cancer immunology research.

Our research summary

Our primary line of research inquiry centers on respiratory viruses of the innate immune response and examining the role of early inflammation, particularly the inflammasome. The highly collaborative nature of this research involves exploring how different virus strains activate the inflammasome and cause differential inflammation, causing a downstream effect on disease severity.

We continue our groundbreaking work on a nanoparticle-based vaccine candidate for RSV that can be administered intranasally rather than injection, as is common with many other vaccines. An intranasal route of administration extends the vaccine’s immunity potential by creating mucosal immunity in the lungs, which increases the vaccine’s effectiveness over time and requires fewer boosters.

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My laboratory’s work on respiratory viruses also explores early innate immune responses, with a particular focus on alveolar macrophages as a cellular target for viral infection. 

We also conduct research related to respiratory co-infections with influenza and SARS-CoV-2. 

In addition to our work on respiratory viruses, we have an emerging and evolving cancer immunology research program involving T-cell immunity in CD4 and CD8 responses to viruses.

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Our collaborators are investigating the impact of high-dose ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, as an add-on to standard-of-care treatment in multiple cancer modalities, such as lung cancer, glioblastoma, and sarcoma. Additional work involves using cancer models to examine the chronic stimulation and exhaustion of CD4 and CD8 T-cell responses. 

The breadth of our work allows us to advance the understanding of the immune response to prevalent respiratory viruses and novel vaccines. As we expand these foundational elements in our infectious disease work, we also examine how to apply our knowledge of the immune system to improve treatments for pediatric cancer patients.

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Contact us

Steven Varga, PhD
Department of Infectious Diseases
MS 1500, Room IA1200

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN, 38105-3678 USA
(901) 595-1500 steven.varga@stjude.org

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262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN, 38105-3678 USA