About the Institute for Immunology

The last five years have seen unprecedented interest in Immunology in the diverse fields of neurodegenerative disease, cancer, and now COVID-19. Established and newly recruited faculty associated with the IFI are involved in all of these areas as described in detail below.  

Below is the list and description of faculty who are mentors for T32 training grant from the NIAID, and is based on faculty who have already trained graduate students; however, total members of the IFI are listed at http://immunology.uci.edu/faculty.asp.

IMMUNOLOGY RESEARCH AT UC IRVINE

1. HOST DEFENSE AND VACCINE DEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING COVID-19 »
There are 10 UCI faculty members working on innate and adaptive immune responses to infections caused by viral, bacterial, fungal and protozoan human pathogens. Drs. Forthal and Marsden work on HIV, Lisa Wagar works on T cell and antibody responses to influenza, and Ilhem Messaoudi works on non-human primate models of yellow fever (YFV), Ebola (EBOV), H1N1 influenza and Chickungunya (CHIKV) viruses. Dr. Felgner is developing a subunit vaccine to Coxiella burnetti (Q-fever). Drs. Pearlman and Siryaporn study neutrophil responses to Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Drs. Liu and Pearlman work on innate immunity to fungal pathogens, including Candida and Aspergillus. Dr. Lodoen examines innate immunity in Toxoplasma gondii, and Dr. Wunderlich uses Drosophila to examine the genetics of immune responses.

UCI RESEARCH ON COVID-19. There are 2 BSL3 laboratories on the UCI campus that can support research on SARS-CoV-2, and several members of our training faculty COVID-19 will therefore provide new research opportunities for pre-doctoral students at UCI. The Office of the VCR has already distributed pilot grants for UCI faculty to work on COVID-19, and T32 Investigators who received $60K pilot awards include: i) Philip Felgner who generated a rapid diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies against 34 coronavirus antigens, and against 33 antigens from six other harmful viruses that cause respiratory infections They reported that this assay is very highly specific for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, and Weian Zhou has developed new imaging system to facilitate its use. ii) Donald Forthal has two pilot projects: firstly, he is working with Alan Barbour to use the deer mouse Peromyscus leucopus as a model for COVID-19 infection, and secondly, he is examining antibody mediated uptake of SARS-CoV-2 by macrophages; iii) Thomas Lane, Kai Kessenbrock, Kim Green and Eric Pearlman together with Grant MacGregor received pilot funds to examine lung, brain and spinal cord immunopathology using single cell RNA sequencing. This project will generate a novel transgenic mouse, and compare it with established transgenic mice that express the human ACE2 under control of the K18 promoter; iv) Ilhem Messaoudi is working on functional and genomic studies of patients with either severe or moderate disease, and is examining the host response in health care workers at UCI Medical Center. All of these investigators submitted grant proposals to the NIAID. Investigators who did not receive a pilot award, but did submit proposals include Melissa Lodoen and Eric Pearlman, to  examine the role of IL-1b in development of lung immunopathology, and Lisa Wagar has reported on the use of human tonsil organoids to respond to SARS-Cov-2 vaccine candidates, and will examine the response to live virus in collaboration with Dr. Messaoudi.

In addition to these investigators working on COVID-19, Dr. Lbachir Benmohamed received a grant from the NIAID to develop a multi-epitope, pan-coronavirus vaccine.  

Philip Felgner, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, School of Medicine. Dr. Felgner is the Director of the recently established Center for Vaccine Research and Development (vaccine.edu.uci). Dr. Felgner has been focused on Department of Defense – funded research to develop a peptide-based vaccine for Q-fever caused by the obligate Rickettsia family bacteria Coxiella burnetti. Dr. Felgner has trained multiple pre-doctoral and Masters students, and several post-doctoral fellows.  His current pre-doctoral student, Sharon Jan, is working on generating this subunit vaccine and is working with a BSL2 mutant strain that has a mutated LPS. Ms. Jan is eligible for T32 funding and applied in 2020; we anticipate that she will be very competitive in 2021.

Donald Forthal, M.D. Professor, Department of Medicine, Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases. Dr. Forthal has been working on viral immunology for over two decades, most recently as head of a laboratory focused on antibody responses to HIV-1 and Dengue virus. Dr. Forthal has received continuous funding support from NIH and various other institutions. He has served as a mentor for numerous research and clinical trainees. Dr. Forthal has received continuous funding support from NIH, and has mentored many clinical trainees (residents and fellows) in research projects. In addition, he has mentored graduate students,  and is currently the advisor for one graduate student, Thomas Caldwell, who applied for a training grant slot this year. 

Haoping Liu, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Biological Chemistry, School of Medicine. Dr. Liu is a Candida geneticist, who has discovered several critical virulence factors required for pathogenesis of C. albicans. More recently, she has been working with Dr. Pearlman at UCI and Dr. Scott Filler at UCLA Harbor to examine the host response to infection with these pathogenic fungi, and found that β-glucan masking and immune evasion in Candida is regulated by Eng1 (bioRxiv 2020). Dr Liu has trained 5 post-doctoral fellows (3 in the last ten years), and 10 graduate students (6 in the last ten years, including one who received an NIH Ruth L. Kirchstein predoctoral award (F31) Most of Dr. Liu’s trainees have continued in research, teaching or research related activities. She currently has a T32 eligible pre-doctoral student, Rachel Garleb, who is working on host defense to C. albicans, and will apply for a training grant slot in the future.

Melissa Lodoen, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, School of Biological Sciences. Dr. Lodoen’s research is on innate immunity and host defense in response to infection with the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, and focuses on the response in the central nervous system (CNS), and on the role of T. gondii in regulating IL-1b secretion by human neutrophils and monocytes. Dr. Lodoen has been very active in training and has mentored 10 pre-doctoral students and 3 post-doctoral fellows. She served as the School of Biological Sciences DECADE mentor to increase recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minority students in doctoral programs at UCI. She is also the course director of the immunology module in the prestigious Biology of Parasitism course in at the Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole, MA. Dr. Lodoen is also the PI on a recently awarded T32 Training Grant in Microbiology & Infectious Diseases at UCI (there is minimal overlap between Immunology T32 and the Microbiology T32, which has a major focus on microbiome research.

Michael Marsden, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, School of Medicine was recruited to UCI from UCLA in July, 2020. Dr. Marsden uses in vitro and in vivo (humanized mouse) models to study the interactions between HIV and the immune system, including formation of viral latency in CD4+ T cells. He also has mentoring experiencing while at UCLA. 

Ilhem Messaoudi, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (recruited to UCI in 2017). Dr. Messaoudi’s research program includes: 1) non-human primate models of yellow fever (YFV), Ebola (EBOV), H1N1 influenza and Chickungunya (CHIKV) viruses; 2)  mechanisms of viral pathogenesis;  2) immune senescence and impact on infectious disease severity; 3) modulation of immunity at the maternal-fetal interface by pregravid obesity; 4) modulation of immunity by chronic ethanol consumption; and 5) role of the microbiome in health and disease. She has mentored 7 PhD graduate students, four of whom have graduated. One student was the recipient of a F31 NIH pre-doctoral fellowship through NIAAA and another is supported by an NIH initiative for maximizing Student Development. Dr. Messaoudi serves on the executive committee of Immunology and Microbiology T32 grants, and is co-director of the T32 in the UCI Center for Virology Research (Bert Semler, PI)

Roberto Tinoco Ph.D., Assistant Professor (Recruited to UCI in 2018), Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. Dr. Tinoco studies T cell exhaustion during chronic viral infections and in melanoma. He currently has three Ph.D. students. Also, as an underrepresented minority faculty member, Dr. Tinoco is committed to mentoring diverse trainees, including 2 undergraduate students and 1 graduate student who are URM. The URM graduate student, Karla Viramontes, will apply for a training grant position next year.

Albert Siryaporn, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, Department of Physics and Astronomy (recruited to UCI in 2016). Dr. Siryaporn’s research program includes (i) Pseudomonas aeruginosa virulence regulation by surface attachment, (ii) P. aeruginosa colonization and biofilm development in response to mechanical cues, (iii) developing inhibitors of P. aeruginosa quorum sensing, and iv) examining mechanisms by which neutrophils kill bacteria,  especially the role of histones and  neutrophil extracellular traps. (these studies are the basis for an RO1 that is under review in collaboration with Eric Pearlman). Since starting his lab, Dr. Siryaporn has co-authored 13 papers on bacterial metabolism, virulence regulation, and host-microbe dynamics, including in Nature Communications and PNAS. He has mentored or co-mentored 4 graduate students, 3 postdocs, and 18 undergraduate students (including 10 women and 8 URM).

Lisa Wagar Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics. was recruited in July 2020 from Mark Davis’s lab at Stanford U. Dr. Wagar uses human tonsil organoids to examine T and B cell responses to influenza and vaccine candidates for influenza and for SARS-CoV-2. Her paper describing the organoids and the response to vaccine candidates is in press at Nature Medicine - Modeling human adaptive immune responses in vitro with tonsil organoids. Dr. Wagar recently hired, Jenna Kastenschmidt as a post-doctoral fellow, who was a T32 awardee and graduated from the Villalta lab in June, 2020. Dr. Wagar has submitted grant proposals to continue her studies on human immunity to SARS-CoV2 and influenza vaccine development.

Zeba Wunderlich, PhD, Assistant Professor, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, School of Biological Sciences. Dr. Wunderlich’s uses Drosophila as a model system to examine how the sequence of regulatory DNA (enhancers and promoters) drives specific spatio-temporal gene expression patterns in development of the innate immune response. She recently identified specific modes of evolution in an immune-responsive tissue either at rest or in response to different types of infection. Dr. Wunderlich was recently awarded an NSF grant through 2024 to develop a genome-wide catalog of immune-responsive enhancers in Drosophila.

2. CANCER IMMUNOLOGY AND IMMUNOTHERAPY »

UCI has a very active group of cancer researchers, including 9+ faculty working on tumor immunology and metastases, including melanoma, breast cancer, colon cancer and lymphoma. Drs. Ganesan, Marangoni, and Tinoco examine the role of macrophages, Tregs and CD8 cells in recognizing and controlling melanoma, especially malignant melanoma. Drs. Kessenbrock and Lawson have made significant contributions to our understanding how the immune system responds to primary breast cancer tumors and metastasis to the brain. Drs. Fleischman, Fruman and Penunzio are focused on B cell lymphomas and hematologic malignancies, and Dr. Waterman is examining the inflammatory response in colon cancer.

Angela Fleischman, MD, Associate Professor, Division of Hematology/ Oncology, School of Medicine. Dr. Fleischman’s laboratory studies how hematopoietic stem cells with myeloid malignancy associated mutations gain a selective advantage over wild-type hematopoietic stem cells and lead to hematologic malignancies. Her research program examines Myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN), specifically the impact the competition between JAK2V617F mutant and wild-type hematopoietic stem cells. Her primary focus has been on the role of inflammation as a driver of MPN disease initiation by investigating whether persistent Toll Like Receptor (TLR) Signaling is responsible for the chronic inflammation seen in MPN patients. One of Dr. Fleischman’s graduate students Betty (Hew Yeng) Liu was just awarded a 2020 training grant position .

David Fruman, PhD. Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, Director, (appointed July 2020) Cancer Research Institute (CRI). Dr. Fruman is also PI of the CRI’s NCI T32-funded training program in Cancer Biology & Therapeutics. Dr. Fruman’s research focuses on the PI3K/mTOR signaling pathway, and he has made significant contributions to understanding the anti-tumor efficacy of agents targeting the BCL2 pathway. Dr. Fruman has been actively involved in the Immunology Training Program as a member of the internal advisory committee (2016-2019), and is an active participant of all IFI activities. He has directly supervised the training of 11 previous PhD students and 7 postdocs, including 5 students who were supported directly by the Immunology T32 grant. Dr. Fruman graduate student, Honyin Chiu, was supported for 2 years by matching funds from the School of Graduate Studies.

Anand Ganesan, M.D., Ph.D. Professor of Dermatology and Biological Chemistry, School of Medicine. Dr. Ganesan’s research program is aimed at understanding the role of macrophages in melanoma using advanced imaging techniques. Specifically, Dr. Ganesan is examining how the immune system recognizes melanocytes during the initiation and progression of melanoma, and the role of the immune system in vitiligo. He has mentored six PhD students, five of whom graduated with their PhD degree.  In addition, I have mentored five postdoctoral fellows to date.  Two of his PhD students were underrepresented minorities (Liggins, Ruiz-Vega), one of whom obtained a diversity fellowship and is now a postdoctoral scholar at UCSD (Liggins) and a second who obtained a NSF fellowship, a FORD fellowship, a Behrens Fellowship at UC Irvine, and is now a UC President’s Scholar at UC Irvine (Ruiz-Vega).  In addition, Dr. Ganesan mentored two URM postdoctoral fellows, one who is a senior scientist at Allergan and a second who is a specialist at UC Irvine. In addition, he mentored another PhD student with a learning disability, and who was supported by a cancer biology training grant. She also obtained a fellowship and recently began a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard. 

Kai Kessenbrock, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Chemistry, School of Medicine. Dr. Kessenbrock’s work is focused on how cells communicate and integrate signals from the tumor microenvironment. Most recently, he used single cell RNA transcriptomics to characterize myeloid-derived suppressor cells breast cancer (Science Immunology, 2020). He is also a co-investigator on the Lane/Pearlman proposal to examine the host response in COVID-19 infected mice using single cell RNA sequencing. Dr. Kessenbrock is currently supervising 6 PhD students, including Justice Williams, who was just awarded the T32 matching fund award from the School of Graduate studies (shared with Josh Gu in the Xiao lab). One of Dr. Kessenbrock’s students is currently funded by an NIH/NCI T30 fellowship and two students were funded by other T32 training grants. Dr. Kessenbrock is also training three postdoctoral fellows, one of whom recently secured a postdoc fellowship from the Canadian Institute of Health Research.

Devon Lawson, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, School of Medicine. Dr. Lawson is also a member of the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Lawson’s work focuses on the molecular mechanisms that drive breast cancer metastasis using single-cell genomics. She reported that metastatic cells express a distinct gene expression profile akin to normal breast epithelial stem cells (Nature, 2015). Using single-cell transcriptomic analysis, she recently identify a metabolic shift from glycolysis to mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation that is important for cancer cell metastasis (Nat. Cell Biol., 2020), and is currently using single-cell technologies to investigate the role of microglia in controlling the immune response to breast cancer brain metastasis. Dr. Lawson has trained 3 postdoctoral fellows, 6 pre-doctoral students, and 11 undergraduates. One of her graduate students, Katrina Evans, was a T32 trainee on this grant, and just submitted her first-author paper studying CNS immunity in brain metastasis. Ms. Evans has won several awards for this work, including the Stanley Behrens Fellows in Medicine award (2017) and the Graduate Dean’s Dissertation Year Fellowship (2020).

Francesco Marangoni, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, School of Medicine (Junior preceptor) has a paper in its second review in Cell entitled “Expansion of. Tumor-Associated Treg Cells upon Disruption of a CTLA4-Dependent Feedback Loop”. His current research program continues to examine immunomodulatory mechanisms using intravital microscopy, and his R21 is to use this technology to understand the immune responses at the site of the skin tumor.  He was recruited from Harvard University in September, 2019, and set up a 2-photon, intravital microscope system in his lab, has hired a technician and an outstanding post-doctoral fellow (Shiva Othy), who has considerable intravital microscopy experience, and has a first author paper with Michael Cahalan (PNAS 2020). Dr. Marangoni has experience mentoring trainees while at Harvard, and will be mentoring graduate students in the next year.

Nicholas R. Pannunzio, PhD. Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/ Oncology was recruited from the University of Southern California in July, 2019. His research program is on VDJ rearrangements in B cell malignancies, specifically the role of the Artemis endonuclease in the DNA double-strand breaks that result in chromosomal translocations in hematopoietic malignancies. He currently has 2 graduate student researchers in his laboratory, both of whom were formerly Dr. Pannunzio’s lab technicians. Each will the first in their families to pursue a doctorate degree. 

Roberto Tinoco Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. Dr. Tinoco was recruited to UCI in 2018 to continue his studies on T cell exhaustion in murine models of melanoma and chronic viral (LCMV) infection. He discovered an important role for TGF-b in LCMV, which was produced by virus-specific CD8+ T cells. Dr. Tinoco also identified PSGL1 as a novel immune checkpoint in metastatic melanoma (Immunity 2016). He currently has three Ph.D. students. Also, as an underrepresented minority faculty member, Dr. Tinoco is committed to mentoring diverse trainees, including 2 undergraduate students and 1 graduate student who are URM. The URM graduate student, Karla Viramontes, will be working on the role of CD8 cells in COVID-19.

Marian Waterman, Ph.D. Professor of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, Deputy Director of the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Director of the Cancer Research Institute (2015-2020, Fruman, current director). The main research goals of the Waterman laboratory are to define the role of Wnt signaling in somatic stem cells and cancer stem cells in colon cancer, and to understand how this signal directs cellular differentiation, proliferation, and migration under normal and disease conditions. Recently, Dr. Waterman has been examining innate immune responses, mostly neutrophils and macrophages in a model of intestinal cancer, and found a role for these cells in fibrosis. Dr. Waterman has directly mentored > 20 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows (with 2 grad students and 2 post-doctoral fellows supported by T32 funds for cancer research in the past 5 years, two of whom were then supported by F31 and F32 awards. Many of her trainees attained leadership positions in academia or industry.

3. IMMUNE RESPONSES IN NEURODEGENERATIVE DISEASE  »

UCI has been a center for neurodegenerative disease, especially Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Huntington’s disease, in addition to epilepsy research and spinal cord injury.  Drs. Blurton-Jones, Green and Inlay have made significant contributions to our understanding of the source of microglia, their activation and their role in regulating the time course and severity of AD. UCI also has expertise in the role of complement in neurodegenerative disease, as Drs. Anderson and Tenner have discovered novel roles for complement components in spinal cord injury and AD. Dr. Baram’s research on inflammatory mediators that regulate epileptic seizures.

Aileen Anderson, Ph.D. Professor, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Anatomy & Neurobiology. Dr. Anderson’s research program examines central nervous system (CNS) degeneration and regeneration, especially the role of human neural stem cells in thoracic spinal cord injury (SCI). The Anderson lab examines non-traditional roles for the innate inflammatory system in both the pathophysiology of spinal cord injury, and identified a role for complement C1q and C3a/C3b as single molecules in the CNS, controlling mouse and human neutral stem cell behavior, and thereby identifying a key role for innate immune cells and autocrine / paracrine complement signaling in survival, self-renewal, and differentiation in the adult brain, as well as a role for these proteins in age-related neurogenesis declines. Dr. Anderson has mentored eight Ph.D. students and co-mentored three Ph.D. students who have completed their dissertations. She currently has three Ph.D. students in her lab.

Tallie Z. Baram, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Anatomy/Neurobiology, Neurology, and Physiology/Biophysics. Dr. Baram is a developmental neuroscientist and child neurologist and has focused her efforts on the influence of early-life experiences on the developing brain, and on the underlying mechanisms. She has studied the role of inflammation on exacerbating early-life seizures, especially those associated with fever, especially on the role of inflammatory mediators secreted by brain cells and immune cells on seizures (Nat Rev Neurol 2011). Dr. Baram has trained multiple pre-doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows, including Autumn Ivy (African American) and Amy Brewster (Latina), who now have their own NIH funded labs. Dr. Baram is also PI of a T32 grant from NINDS to support trainees in epilepsy research.

Matt Blurton-Jones, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. Dr. Blurton-Jones’ s research utilizes human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and chimeric mouse models to examine the underlying molecular mechanisms that drive the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In recent studies, he developed novel chimeric mouse models that demonstrated cross-talk between adaptive and innate immunity, which likely plays an integral role in AD. Dr. Matt Blurton-Jones was listed as a junior preceptor in the 2015 submission of this grant proposal, and has graduated 4 students, all of whom earned PhDs within 5 years and are pursuing postdoctoral training or employment within biomedical-related fields. Currently he has 6 graduate students and 2 postdoctoral scholars in his lab.  

Kim Green, Ph.D., Professor, Neurobiology and Behavior. Dr. Green’s research focuses on microglia function in healthy and diseased brains using murine models of Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. Since demonstrating an essential role for CSF-1 in microglial survival, he can rapidly deplete these cells and examine re-population of these cells in the brain over time. Dr. Green has mentored 8 graduate students, and as vice-chair of the Dept of Neurobiology and Behavior, he is responsible for the teaching mission of the department.

Matthew Inlay, PhD. Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry. Dr. Inlay also examine the role of the immune system in Alzheimer’s disease, and the impacts of neuroinflammation on immune cell recruitment and function in the brain. His second project is idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (IT), an autoimmune disease that destroys platelets. Overall, Dr. Inlay has mentored 5 Ph.D. students, 4 of whom have earned their Ph.D. and are currently employed in academia or industry in research-related positions. One of these students, Ankita Shukla, worked on the role of microglia, and was supported by the current T32 Immunology training grant.  Dr. Inlay’s current graduate student, Erika Varady, has made significant progress on this project based on her support from the current T32 training grant. 

Andrea Tenner, Ph.D. Neurobiology and Behavior. Dr. Tenner studies the role of the complement system in Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. She demonstrated a negative regulatory role of the complement protein, C1q, on the inflammatory responses of microglia, resulting in a neuroprotective role on neurons. Using mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Tenner showed that C5aR1 limits damaging inflammation in AD and promotes clearance and lysosomal degradation activity. She has mentored 8 graduate students who completed their PhD degree (including African American and Hispanic students), 7 masters students and 14 postdoctoral fellows.

4. AUTOIMMUNITY AND CHRONIC INFLAMMATION  »

Autoimmunity is a well-established area of research at UCI, and investigators have made important contributions to our understanding of multiple sclerosis using the murine model of experimental autoimmune encephalitis (EAE). Drs. Cahalan, Demetriou and Walsh have made significant contributions to our understanding of immune regulation of EAE, including visualizing T cell activity in injured spinal cords. Dr. Lane uses a coronavirus model of MS where spinal cord injury is induced by a neurotropic coronavirus. Drs. Dai and Villalta are examining chronic inflammation and immune regulation in murine models of psoriatic skin lesions (Dai) and Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy (Villalta).

Michael Cahalan, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Physiology and Biophysics. Dr. Cahalan pioneered the study of ion channels in T cells, and the use of 2-photon imaging to characterize ion channel activity in vitro and in vivo. His studies on lymph node cellular dynamics led to an improved understanding of how the lymph node functions as the organ of antigen recognition and activation. Dr. Cahalan’s lab is now studying the cellular and molecular bases for suppression of calcium signaling in Th17 cells by regulatory T cells in the context of the EAE model of autoimmune neuroinflammation. Dr. Cahalan has mentored 11 graduate students and 29 postdoctoral researchers who have gone on to thrive in their careers. Several former students and postdocs have become faculty members with successful independent research programs. Others have excellent positions as research scientists in biotech and pharma companies.

Xing Dai, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Dermatology. Dr. Dai was one of the first groups to work on mammalian Ovol genes using mouse models, and identified a key role of Ovol2 (compensated by Ovol1 in Ovol2’s absence) as a master inhibitor of epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity in the developing skin and mammary epithelia. Current research in the Dai laboratory examines the role of Ovol1 in regulating inflammatory responses in the skin, including psoriasis like skin inflammation. Morgan Dragan, who is working on this project, just received a slot on the current training grant (2020-2021).

Michael Demetriou, M.D., Ph.D. Professor, Departments of Neurology, and Microbiology & Molecular Genetics. The Demetriou lab focuses on the roles of complex Asn(N)-linked glycans in immunity and autoimmunity, specifically multiple sclerosis (MS), and demonstrated that genetic and metabolic regulation of N-glycosylation controls the function and activity of cell surface glycoproteins to affect diseases such as MS. The branching and number of N-glycans per protein molecule cooperate to regulate binding to galectins, forming a galectin-glycoprotein lattice that controls the distribution, clustering and endocytosis of surface glycoproteins. His recent graduate student Christie Mortales, who was supported by the current Training grant, recently published on the role of N-linked glycans on B cells (iScience, 2020). Dr. Demetriou has mentored 14 pre- and post-doctoral fellows.

Thomas Lane, PhD. Professor, Neurobiology & Behavior. Dr. Lane’s research examines molecular and cellular mechanisms governing neuroinflammation, demyelination, and remyelination in pre-clinical models of the human demyelinating disease multiple sclerosis (MS). Specifically, he uses an animal model of neuroinflammatory-mediated demyelination induced by infection with the neurotropic JHM strain of mouse hepatitis virus (JHMV, a member of the Coronaviridae family of viruses) to identify roles for chemokines and chemokine receptors. Dr. Lane was at UCI from 1998-2013 (and was an Associate Director of the IFI), when he moved to the University of Utah; however, he returned to UCI in 2020 and is actively involved in in the neuro-immunology program. As he has extensive experience working with coronaviruses, Dr. Lane is now actively involved in the COVID-19 research and is collaborating with several UCI investigators, including Drs. Forthal, Lodoen and Pearlman. Dr. Lanes current student, Gema Olivarria, was just awarded a slot on the current T32 training grant (2020-2021), and will be working on a COVID-19 project.

Armando Villalta Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, School of Medicine. Dr. Villalta’s research program is on the immunology of Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy (DMD) and other muscle diseases. He examines the role of regulatory T cells (Tregs) group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s) in regulating innate immunity and muscle regeneration during DMD. Dr. Villalta has trained 15 undergraduates, several of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds, 2 Master students, and his PhD student Jenna Kastenschmidt, who was supported by this grant, and who graduated in June, 2020.  

Dr. Craig Walsh, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. Dr. Walsh’s laboratory investigates the regulation of immune tolerance and homeostasis, and the impact of impaired immune tolerance in neuroinflammatory contexts, specifically in experimental autoimmune encephalitis (EAE) as a model for multiple sclerosis. Dr. Walsh is also examining the role of the adaptive immune system in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). He has extensive experience as a mentor for postdoctoral fellow (seven trained in my laboratory), PhD students (14 have completed their PhDs in our group), master’s students (12 have trained in my laboratory) and undergraduate researchers (53 have worked in my laboratory). Several of his PhD students have been supported by the Immunology Training Grant since its inception, and Dr. Walsh has been a member of the Steering Committee for this training grant for 10 years (and was interim Director of the IFI in 2013-2015).

5. Innovative Technologies in Immunology.  »

Innovations in technology are critical in driving the field of immunology, and UCI has 5 faculty who take complementary approaches to develop tools for diagnosis, cell analysis, and vaccine adjuvant strategies, and to characterize how immune cells respond to biomaterials.

Young Jik Kwon, Ph.D. Professor, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Dr. Kwon’s lab has developed novel nanomaterial-based therapies for treatment of cancers, encompassing interdisciplinary research tools at the interface of biology, engineering, and chemistry. The Kwon lab quantitatively analyzing and optimizing biomedical systems (engineering) and designing and synthesizing new, bio- and nanomaterials (chemistry), toward developing novel therapeutic and diagnostic tools. Dr. Kwon also examines the immunological response to therapeutic materials, and uses immune cells for therapies. Dr. Kwon has graduated 9 graduate students, including two under-represented minorities. Three former students are now faculty members at universities, and Dr. Kwon currently has one T32 eligible graduate student (Rebecca Lee), who applied in 2020, and will try again in 2021. 

Wendy Liu, PhD. Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. Dr. Liu uses biomaterials to examine how the microenvironment regulates immune cell plasticity and immune-mediated wound healing. Her current focus is on the effect of biomaterials and microfabrication on macrophages plasticity and wound healing. Dr. Liu has mentored 11 pre-doctoral students, 6 of whom have graduated. Most are eligible for T32 training grant awards.

Jennifer Prescher, PhD. Professor, Departments of Chemistry, Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, and Pharmaceutical Science. Dr. Prescher has generated biocompatible and bioluminescent imaging agents that can characterize how cells communicate over space and time, and will provide new insights into cancer progression and metastases, immunology, and host-pathogen interactions. Twelve of her graduate students completed their PhDs, with 9 in academia or industry positions (UCSF, UCI, U of Chicago, Yale, UC Berkeley, Syracuse, The College of New Jersey, Merck, and Genentech).  The other students also remain in the scientific profession: one is an AAAS Fellow working in the Department of Defense and the other is an Instructor at Cal Poly.  Her students have also received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships (5) and competitive internal awards, including NSF IGERT and NIH T32 training grant fellowships.

Szu-Wen Wang, PhD.  Professor, Dept. of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Wang’s research examines the design, fabrication, and self-assembly of novel biomaterials for tissue engineering and drug delivery applications, with a current emphasis on immunomodulatory materials, especially in complement activation and dendritic cell responses.  In these studies, she showed that packaging antigen and adjuvant in a geometry that mimics viral particles significantly enhances cytolytic CD8+ T cell responses. Dr. Wang is collaborating with Drs. Felgner on using nanoparticles for vaccines against Coxiella burnetti. She has mentored 12 PhD graduate students (graduated + current) 2 of whom are URMs and 7 are women (underrepresented in engineering).

Weian Zhao, PhD. Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Dr Zhao’s research projects have broad applications; therefore, he is also a member of the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Biological chemistry, the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology. His expertise is in generating rapid diagnostics, including a high throughput microarray based COVID-19 in collaboration with Dr. Philip Felgner Dr. Zhao.