Message from the Director
The CII is RECRUITING new faculty with expertise in the investigation of cancer research. Early investigators who have first author publications in high-impact journals as well as current NIH funding are strongly encouraged to apply. In an effort to attract new and exceptional scientists, Rutgers has created a Chancellors Scholars Fund to help develop and support research programs of the highest quality faculty. Positions are full-time, tenure-track.
The CII at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Cancer Center is a multidisciplinary and highly collaborative center with laboratories dedicated to researching allergies; chronic autoimmune diseases like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis; fungal pathogens; pain management; sepsis; toxoplasmosis; and Vitamin D. An exciting emerging area of investigation includes inflammatory skin conditions such as acne and rosacea.
Cores Facilities include Biostatistics Core; Center for Genome Informatics; Experimental Histology & Confocal Imaging Core; Flow Cytometry and Immunology Core Laboratory; Molecular Resource Facility; and the Transgenic Core Services among others.
The CII is an integral part of the Institute for Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases (i3D) a Chancellor level institute on the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) campus. Infection and Inflammation has been selected as a signature area of strategic development and the i3D is already poised to become a national leader in this specialized area.
Administrator: Jennifer Yaney
New Faculty Profiles.............
Dongfang Liu, MD, PhD recently joined the Center for Immunity and Inflammation and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine as an Associate Professor. In 2012, Dr. Liu was recruited to Baylor College of Medicine as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Department of Pathology & Immunology, before joining Houston Methodist Hospital (a teaching hospital affiliated with Weill Cornell Medical College) as a scientist in 2015. In 2018, Dr. Liu was promoted to an Associate Professor in Houston Methodist Research Institute. Dr. Liu did his postdoctoral training on natural killer (NK) cells at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 2005 to 2011. After completing the postdoctoral training, he joined Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard in 2011 as a senior research scientist, where he worked on HIV-specific CTL dysfunction with a focus on PD-1 in HIV-specific CTLs. Dr. Liu’s current research is primarily focused on the immunobiology of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T and NK cells, immunoreceptors, CAR immunotherapy, and HIV-specific CTLs in chronic HIV and its related malignancies, with a focus on immunological synapse biology and its clinical applications. Dr. Liu’s research is supported by several NIH grants, including an R01 and three R21 grants.
Jason Scott Weinstein, PhD Jason Weinstein, PhD joined the Center for Immunity and Inflammation and the Department of Medicine in August 2018 as an Assistant Professor, Chancellor Scholar and RWJBarnabas Health hire. Dr. Weinstein came to Rutgers New Jersey Medical School from Yale Medical School where he was an Instructor in the Department of Medicine and Section of Rheumatology. Dr. Weinstein’s current research is primarily focused on understanding a subset of effector CD4 T cells, known as a T follicular helper (Tfh) cells, which interact with B cells to generate antibody production in the B cells. A major focus of his research is understanding how dysregulated Tfh cell-B cell interactions generate self-reactive autoantibodies that lead to systemic autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. Ongoing studies in his lab using use state-of-the-art genomics approaches such as Chip-sequencing, RNA-sequencing and enhancer mapping will shed light on changes in the genomic pathways that result in immune cell malfunction in autoimmunity. These studies will pave the way for developing novel vaccine designs and autoimmune therapies. Dr. Weinstein has published first authored papers in top tier journals including Nature Immunology and the Journal of Experimental Medicine. He is fortunate to having considerable NIH funding including a new R01, a K01 and a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant.
Huijuan Hu, PhD recently joined the Center for Immunity and Inflammation and the Department of Anesthesiology as an Associate Professor. Dr. Hu came to Rutgers New Jersey Medical School from Drexel University College of Medicine where she was an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology. Dr. Hu's laboratory aims to understand the mechanisms underlying the development of chronic pain and to identify novel drug targets and drug candidates for the treatment of chronic pain. Dr Hu’s research has concentrated on the role of store-operated calcium channels (SOCs) in pain plasticity. In addition, Dr. Hu is interested in investigating whether maternal pain exposure alters pain behavior in offspring. Dr. Hu and her laboratory employs a variety of approaches including behavioral tests, patch clamp electrophysiology, live-cell imaging, biochemical and molecular biology in our current studies.
Nataki C. Douglas, MD, PhD, is an Associate Professor and Director of Translational Research in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health and a member of the Center for Immunity and Inflammation and the Institute for Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases. Dr. Douglas completed her MD and PhD training in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University School of Medicine before continuing to Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. After fellowship, Dr. Douglas joined the Columbia Faculty as an Attending Reproductive Endocrinologist. Dr. Douglas is a Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist who combines patient care with basic/translational research because she wants to raise the clinical bar for her patients. Dr. Douglas is a leader in understanding molecular mechanisms that underlie uterine vascular development early in pregnancy at the time of formation of the placenta. Dr. Douglas utilizes unique animal models to study interactions between the uterine decidual vasculature and trophoblasts, while simultaneously seeks to validate these models against human disorders of pregnancy. This approach has the promise to improve diagnosis and treatment of infertility and common adverse pregnancy outcomes, including early miscarriages, intrauterine growth restriction, and preeclampsia.
Dane Parker, PhD joined the Center for Immunity and Inflammation and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in April 2018 as a tenure-track Assistant Professor, where he studies the interaction between bacterial pathogens and the innate immune system. Dr. Parker obtained his PhD from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia where his focus on was the genetics and transcriptional regulation of the pathogen responsible for ovine footrot. In 2007 he moved to the laboratory of Professor Alice Prince at Columbia University where he gained skills in working with several important human bacterial pathogens responsible for respiratory and skin infections. He also gained experience with host innate immune signalling pathways important for the detection of microorganisms. A major focus of his research is the type I and type III interferon signalling pathways, how bacterial pathogens can activate this pathway and how they influence inflammation and bacterial clearance during infection. He is actively working with the important bacterial species, Staphylococcus aureus, Acinetobacter baumannii and Streptococcus pneumoniae. It is this work that is funded by an R01 grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Dr. Parker established his laboratory in 2016 at Columbia University Medical Center and continues this work at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
IN THE NEWS.............
Worms May Hold Answers to Curbing Disease in Developing World - Dr. George Yap and Dr. William Gause received a $3 million R01 grant from
the National Institutes of Health this spring to study how worms
prevent vaccinations from bolstering the immune system. They also
received a $511,711 R56 NIH grant titled "Genesis of Defective Effector
Lymphocytes in the Helminth Coinfected Host.”
Over treating populations for worm infections may lead to the
development of drug-resistant strains, said Gause, who has been
researching helminths and their impact on the human immune system since
1985 and is conducting a tandem study on the parasite with another
NJMS peer, George Hasko. This second five-year, $3.2 million study,
also awarded by the NIH, will examine how the immune system actually
detects the worm infection, and then becomes activated to protect
against the parasite while weakening the very immune components that
protect us against microbes, like tuberculosis.
Dr. Purnima Bhanot, Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics was awarded two NIH grants totaling over $2.5 million towards discovery of novel drugs against malaria. Malaria, caused by the protozoan parasite Plasmodium, kills roughly 2000 people a day. Dr. Bhanot with colleagues at Rutgers School of Pharmacy and Montclair State University, will synthesize potent and selective inhibitors of Plasmodium falciparum’s cGMP-dependent protein kinase and test their efficacy in blocking infection of the host liver by the parasite.
Dr. Sylvia Christakos received an RO1 grant ($582,981/yr - 4 years) to study Nutrigenomics of Intestinal Vitamin D Action. The proposed research employs a genomic approach coupled to physiology studies in novel mouse models to test the ypothesis that the proximal
and distal segments of the intestine have unique regulatory pathways
controlling vitamin D receptor (Vdr) expression and vitamin D action.
This project combines expertise in vitamin D biology as well as
expertise in genomics (in collaboration with Dr. Mike Verzi, Rutgers
New Brunswick) to determine how the molecular actions of vitamin D can
be utilized to improve calcium status in groups at risk for accelerated
bone loss and osteoporosis.
The i3D and CII received a $1 million grant from the MCJ Amelior Foundation that will support a comprehensive research program in the field of acne and rosacea, including the recruitment of an up-and-coming researcher.