Research

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The immune system is tasked with recognizing and eliminating infected or cancerous cells. To do this, it leverages the vast molecular diversity of the T and B cell receptor repertoires to ensure any immune response is antigen-specific and does not lead to autoimmunity.

In our research group, we focus on T and NK cell receptors, which recognize MHC molecules expressed on the surface of almost every cell in the body. Peptides presented by MHC molecules serve as a window into each cell’s proteome, and activate, inhibit or leave their cognate T and NK cells quiescent. While technological advances allowed discovery of T cell receptor or B cell receptor sequences of interest from a given tumor or in response to infection,  using that information to determine what peptides these receptors recognize has remained a challenge.

We use protein engineering, combinatorial biology, next generation sequencing, and structural biology to determine what T and NK cell receptors in effective immune responses recognize. Understanding what natural immune responses recognize, and how they signal, will allow us to optimize the responses and create safer, more effective therapies. 

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Decoding T cell responses to cancer and infection

We are working to understand what T cells recognize during the course of an immune response and using this information to design better therapies. more >>

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Examining NK cell receptor specificity and function

NK cell receptors recognize peptide-MHC molecules using a binding mode distinct from T cell receptors. We are working to fully define these 'rules' of interaction. more >>

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Engineering Chimeric Antigen Receptors for better recognition and function

We aim to dramatically rethink how CARs are constructed. more >>

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Studying Immune receptor function in neurons

In additon to their roles in the immune system, many of the immune receptors we study are expressed by neurons and have roles in neural development and disease. We are working to understand, and to create tools that affect, these interactions. more >>