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Research Labs

Dr. Doug GolenbockDouglas Golenbock, MD

The Golenbock laboratory is interested in the innate immune response to infectious illnesses, especially Gram-negative infections related to the sepsis syndrome and malaria. Our focus has been on Toll-like receptors, inflammasomes and cytosolic DNA receptors that lead to interferonproduction. In addition to infectious diseases, we have a continued interest in Alzheimer’s Disease, and example of a sterile inflammatory disease that shares pathogenic mechanisms with infectious illness.

Dr. Daniel Caffrey

Daniel Caffrey, PhD

Research in the Caffrey lab is focused on understanding the evolution and function of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in inflammation, the transcription and regulation of immune response genes and the evolution of host-pathogen interactions.

Dr. Robert Finberg

Robert Finberg, MD

A major area of study in the Finberg Laboratory is examining the nature of the evolution of viruses in response to various selective pressures using a highly collaborative approach with systems biologists, bioinformaticians, virologists, and structural biologists. The Finberg laboratory has demonstrated the role of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in the innate immune response to viruses and has identified the receptor for Coxsackie and Adenoviruses (CAR) as well as the receptor for many echoviruses (DAF). Our research has subsequently focused on pathogenesis and the development of the host immune response to respiratory viruses including influenza A virus (IAV) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). 

Dr. Kate Fitzgerald

Katherine Fitzgerald, PhD

The central goal of our research is aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling the inflammatory response and defining how discrimination is made between pathogens, resident microflora and host molecules to avoid damaging inflammatory diseases. Our research uses immunology, molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics to understand these mechanisms. Our longer-term goals are to understand how dysregulation of innate immune responses underlie the pathogenesis of infectious, inflammatory and autoimmune disease in humans.

Dr. Laura Gibson

Laura Gibson, MD

My work as a clinician-scientist involves translational research focusing on the immunopathogenesis of cytomegalovirus (CMV) and other herpesvirus infection in populations at risk for severe disease, including neonates and solid organ transplant recipients.

Dr. Evelyn Kurt-Jones

My lab studies the development of the innate immune response to DNA and RNA viruses, particularly in the lung and brain. Our focus is on TLRs and cytosolic innate immune signaling receptors and how these sensors promote the development of inflammation and adaptive immunity and influence disease outcome.

Dr. Stuart Levitz

Stuart Levitz, MD

Fungal infections have emerged as major causes of morbidity and mortality, particularly in persons who are immunocompromised. The Levitz lab focuses on the mechanisms by which the immune system controls fungal pathogens and the strategies that fungi utilize to circumvent host defenses. Major ongoing projects in the laboratory include the development of a vaccine to protect at risk individuals against Cryptococcus neoformans and delineating the role of eosinophils in aspergillosis.

Dr. Lisa Lewis

Lisa Lewis, PhD

Research focuses on the development of vaccines and immunotherapeutic molecules to combat gonococcal infection as well as understanding the interactions of the immune system, specifically and complement, with the pathogenic Neisseria. 

Dr. Egil Lien

Egil Lien, PhD

The Lien lab is focused on understanding inflammation and host-pathogen interactions via Toll-like receptors (TLRs), NLR-inflammasomes, RIP kinases, inflammatory caspases and other signaling molecules. Model systems that we utilize include bacterial infections with Yersinia pestis (the causative agent of plague), Salmonella, other pathogens and also non-infectious inflammation. Furthermore, we are interested in vaccines and mechanisms for adjuvant action. 

Dr. Pukkila-Worley

Read Pukkila-Worley, MD

Research in the Pukkila-Worley lab is focused on identifying innate immune pathways in the host and virulence-related signaling mechanisms in the pathogen that can be exploited to develop novel anti-infective small molecules. Towards this end, we are defining evolutionarily conserved means of innate immune activation using bacterial and fungal pathogenesis assays in the microscopic nematode Caenorhabditiselegans.

Dr. Ram

Sanjay Ram, MD

My group studies how bacteria (specifically, the bacteria that cause gonorrhea and meningitis) escape killing by the complement system. Knowledge of such immune evasion mechanisms are being translated to develop novel vaccines and therapies.

Dr. Rice

Peter Rice, MD

My research identifies unique bacterial determinants that serve as suitable vaccine candidates to protect against infection in humans. Usually these determinants activate complement (C) that combats invading bacteria and also facilitates and amplifies the development of adaptive immune responses. Under certain conditions, C-regulators are hijacked by microorganisms and down-regulate the activation and binding of active C components and divert organisms to non-professional phagocytes (epithelial cells) where they can gain sanctuary. In a separate line of inquiry, my laboratory also develops peptide mimics (immunologic counterparts [surrogates]) of suitable carbohydrate vaccine candidates to circumvent the disadvantages of carbohydrate-based vaccines. These simple peptides can then be used as vaccines to elicit protective immune responses.

Dr. Shaughnessy

Jutamas Shaughnessy, PhD

My research focuses on the role of complement regulatory proteins in the pathogenesis of N. gonorrhoeae. The goal of my research is to develop novel therapies/vaccines against Neisseria gonorrhoeae which has become resistant to almost every conventional antibiotic.

Dr. Silverman

Neal Silverman, PhD

Using Drosophila melanogaster as model system, the Silverman lab focuses on the molecular mechanisms and physiological systems that control innate immunity, especially NF-kB signaling. Projects in the lab include identifying and characterizing innate immune sensing mechanisms involved in responding to bacterial or parasitic diseases, as well as elucidating the downstream signal transduction pathways. Other projects in the lab focus on the control of the innate immune response by steroid hormones, and how this interaction changes with stress and/or age. While the primary research approach uses Drosophila as model, we also translates our basic discoveries to other systems, like mosquitoes or mice, that are more immediately relevant to human diseases, often in collaboration with our colleagues in the Program for Innate Immunity.

Dr. Specht

Charles Specht, PhD

Currently, my research is focused on understanding the role of chitin and chitosan in organizing the cell wall of the pathogenic fungus, Cryptococcus neoformans. This has led to the pre-clinical development in a mouse model of vaccines that can resolve a cryptococcal lung infection.

Dr. J. Wang

Jennifer Wang, MD

Research in the Wang Lab involves studying innate immune responses to viruses including influenza, coxsackievirus, and herpes simplex virus. These innate immune responses are mediated by host pattern recognition receptors including Toll-like receptors and RNA helicases.