Cristina Bergamaschi, Ph.D. Staff Scientist, Human Retrovirus Pathogenesis Section, Vaccine Branch
National Cancer Institute
Cristina Bergamaschi, Ph.D. is a molecular immunologist and vaccine biologist who has specialized in the development of immunomodulatory cytokine therapies for cancer treatment and improved vaccination strategies. Dr. Bergamaschi received her Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine specializing in Immunology from the University of Milan, Italy in 2008. She was awarded an NIH Visiting Fellowship for Cancer Research to conduct postdoctoral research in the Human Retrovirus Section headed by Dr. George N. Pavlakis at National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Frederick, MD, USA. She is currently a Staff Scientist in the Human Retrovirus Pathogenesis Section headed by Dr. Barbara K. Felber in the Vaccine Branch at NCI.
At the NCI, Dr. Bergamaschi investigated the molecular biology and function of interleukin-15 (IL-15), which regulate innate and adaptive leukocyte homeostasis and anti-tumor or anti-viral activities of leukocytes, in a variety of cellular and animal models including genetically modified mice and macaque models. Her research identified that bioactive IL-15 requires a heterodimeric protein composed of the IL-15 cytokine associated with the IL-15 Receptor alpha chain (hetIL-15) for optimal activity. In preclinical experiments, Dr. Bergamaschi showed that hetIL-15 administration may be a general method to induce lymphocyte entry into tumors, converting lymphocyte-poor “cold” tumors into “hot” and increasing the cytotoxicity of lymphocytes. The discovery on hetIL-15 was moved forward to create a novel cytokine therapy that is currently in clinical evaluation for metastatic cancer at the Clinical Center, NCI.
The goal of Dr. Bergamaschi’s research is to tailor immunomodulatory biologicals for improved clinical efficacy in cancer and infectious disease treatment and to translate her discoveries into clinical practices.
Ricardo Rajsbaum, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Microbiology and Immunology University of Texas Medical Branch
Ricardo Rajsbaum, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas. Dr. Rajsbaum performed his PhD in the laboratory of Anne O’Garra at the MRC-NIMR, London, UK, and completed his postdoctoral training at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, with Dr Adolfo Garcia-Sastre. Dr. Rajsbaum’s lab at UTMB studies regulation of cytokine expression in immune cells, TLR and RIG-I-like receptor signaling, regulation and function of type-I IFNs, and virus–host interactions, with a specific focus on the role of ubiquitin and TRIM E3-ubiquitin ligases in innate antiviral function. Current research is focused on the role of TRIM6 during infections with highly pathogenic viruses (Ebola and Nipah; Bharaj et al., PLoS Path, 2016; Bharaj et al., J. Virol 2017), the role of the ubiquitin system in promoting Zika and dengue virus replication, and the role of unanchored polyubiquitin chains in regulation of innate immune signaling.
Vijay A. K. Rathinam, DVM, PhD Assistant Professor, Immunology
Dr. Vijay Rathinam is An Assistant Professor of Immunology and the Associate Director of Immunology Graduate Program at UConn Health School of Medicine. He received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Madras Veterinary College, India and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He completed his postdoctoral training in innate immunity in Dr. Kate Fitzgerald’s laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His laboratory at UConn Health aims to identify key molecular mechanisms in innate immune sensing and inflammasome signaling that govern the regulation of immune responses. His lab recently uncovered how LPS gains access to the cytosol during bacterial infections and identified outer membrane vesicles (OMV) produced by Gram-negative bacteria as a vehicle that delivers LPS into the cytosol triggering caspase-11-dependent inflammasome responses. He is a recipient of the Herbert Tabor Young Investigator Award in 2012 from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The Rathinam lab is supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Greg Sonnenberg, PhD
Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology in Medicine
Weil Cornell, New York City, USA
Dr. Sonnenberg completed his doctoral research training at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, focusing on mucosal immunology. In 2012, he was a recipient of the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award (DP5) that permitted him to develop and lead an independent research laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine. In 2014, Dr. Sonnenberg was recruited as an Assistant Professor of Microbiology & Immunology in Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. He has primary appointments in the Department of Medicine and Gastroenterology Division, the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, and the Jill Robert’s Institute for Research in IBD at Cornell University. The Sonnenberg Laboratory research employs innovative murine models and novel patient-based studies to provide new insights into the pathogenesis of IBD, and to direct future treatment strategies relevant to multiple chronic human diseases associated with dysregulated host-microbiota relationships. As part of these studies, the lab has also launched a significant translational research effort and initiated numerous clinical collaborations to examine primary human samples from defined patient populations. Research from the Sonnenberg Laboratory has resulted in the publication of numerous primary articles in top-tier journals including Nature, Science, Nature Medicine, Nature Immunology and Immunity. Dr. Sonnenberg has published over 42 peer-reviewed primary and review papers and is funded by the NIH and private foundations. He is also been a recipient of the Searle Scholar Award and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award, appeared on the Forbes List of rising stars transforming Science and Healthcare, and research from his lab was highlighted as one of the top notable advances in by Nature Medicine.
Dr. Munir Akkaya received his MD degree from Hacettepe University, Turkey in 2007 and D.Phil (PhD) degree from the University of Oxford in 2012. During his undergraduate education, he was awarded with a Scholarship of Honor from Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey and a Merit Scholarship from Hacettepe University. His doctorate education was funded by Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom. His D.Phil thesis, which he prepared under supervision of Dr. A. Neil Barclay, focused on the regulation of immune response through interactions of leukocyte surface molecules. He also explored how ligands of inhibitory receptors are acquired by various pathogens and used for immune evasion. Following his D.Phil education, Dr. Akkaya joined the research group of Dr. Susan K Pierce at NIAID, NIH as a post-doctoral researcher and undertook projects related to B cell biology and immunometabolism. His research at NIH characterized novel mechanisms through which TLR signaling can influence B cell survival and differentiation. Besides his work on B cell biology, he is interested in host-pathogen interactions in the context of Plasmodium infections. In addition to the Milstein Young Investigator Award, Dr. Akkaya is a recipient of ThermoFisher Trainee Achievement award from American Association of Immunologists and Fellows Award for Research Excellence from NIH. He currently works as a research fellow at NIH.
Young Investigators to Watch for 2019
Here are some of the emerging scientists in the field of interferon and cytokine research:
Assistant Professor in Immunology
Dept. Clinical Medicine, School of Medicine,
JF Coordinator for BSc in Human Health and Disease, TBSI, Head of Immunobiology Research Group, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN), Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Dr. Rajsbaum performed his PhD in the laboratory of Anne O’Garra at the MRC-NIMR, London in 2009, and completed his postdoctoral training at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, with Dr Adolfo Garcia-Sastre.