Peter Beernink, PhD

Professor in Residence
+1 510 450-7970
Research Description: 

Our research lies at the intersection between vaccinology and structural biology. We use X-ray crystallography and other biochemical and biophysical approaches to aid in developing vaccines against the mucosal bacterial pathogens meningococcus and gonococcus. Meningococci cause potentially fatal cases of sepsis and meningitis and gonococcus causes sexually-transmitted infections, which are increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Our vaccine approaches against these pathogens include mutant Factor H binding protein (FHbp) and Neisserial surface protein A (NspA) antigens designed to disrupt the interaction with human complement Factor H, as well as outer membrane vesicles that have increased abundance of the mutant antigens. We are also collaborating on a gonococcal vaccine based on a peptide that mimics a sugar on the surface of the bacteria. From the structures of antibodies bound to vaccine antigens, we gain information both to develop improved antigens and to understand the human antibody repertoire induced by vaccination.

Primary Thematic Area: 
Virology & Microbial Pathogenesis
Secondary Thematic Area: 
Research Summary: 
My laboratory investigates molecular interactions among microbial vaccine antigens, host antibodies, and other immune system proteins.
Featured Publications: 

Crystal structure reveals vaccine elicited bactericidal human antibody targeting a conserved epitope on meningococcal fHbp.

Nature communications

López-Sagaseta J, Beernink PT, Bianchi F, Santini L, Frigimelica E, Lucas AH, Pizza M, Bottomley MJ

Enhanced protective antibody to a mutant meningococcal factor H-binding protein with low-factor H binding.

JCI insight

Granoff DM, Giuntini S, Gowans FA, Lujan E, Sharkey K, Beernink PT

A meningococcal vaccine antigen engineered to increase thermal stability and stabilize protective epitopes.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Konar M, Pajon R, Beernink PT

A meningococcal factor H binding protein mutant that eliminates factor H binding enhances protective antibody responses to vaccination.

Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Beernink PT, Shaughnessy J, Braga EM, Liu Q, Rice PA, Ram S, Granoff DM