Message from the Director

Dr. William C. Gause
Dr. William C. Gause,

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.............

Vasileios Petrou, PhD
Alexander Lemenze, PhD
Keri E. Lunsford, MD, PhD, FACS

Vasileios Petrou, PhD

Vasileios Petrou, PhD joined the Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics and the Center for Immunity and Inflammation as an Assistant Professor and Chancellor Scholar on July 1, 2019. Dr. Petrou received his PhD in Neuroscience from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in 2012 and joins Rutgers New Jersey Medical School from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, where he completed his postdoctoral training in 2019. Dr. Petrou's research focus is to understand the structure-function relationship of membrane proteins, with a particular emphasis on bacterial membrane enzymes involved in antibiotic resistance, and eukaryotic receptors and enzymes relevant to human physiology and pathology. In mid-2017, Dr. Petrou was awarded a highly competitive National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant (designated K99/R00) to investigate in more detail the structure and function of the bacterial aminoarabinose transferase protein ArnT, which is a key bacterial membrane protein enabling resistance to polymyxin-class antibiotics.

Alexander Lemenze, PhD

Alexander Lemenze, PhD joined the Department of Pathology and the Center for Immunity and Inflammation as an Assistant Professor in late 2019. Dr. Lemenze received his PhD in Biomedical Sciences: Infection, Inflammation and Immunity from Rutgers NJMS in January 2018 while simultaneously working in the Molecular Core Facility. Following his thesis work, Dr. Lemenze continued his development as a Technical Application Scientist for GENEWIZ, specializing in single cell and upcoming technologies. His focus on Next Generation Sequencing techniques and the necessary analysis has led him to return to Rutgers NJMS to act as the Director of a nascent Bioinformatics Core where his primary goals will be pipeline development and assisting local researchers with NGS data analysis, and he has long term hopes to develop an automated analysis platform.

Keri E. Lunsford MD, PhD, FACS

Keri E. Lunsford MD, PhD, FACS joined the Division of Transplant and Hepatobiliary Surgery in the Department of Surgery and the Center for Immunity and Inflammation on October 1, 2019.  Dr. Lunsford received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and she received MD and PhD degrees from The Ohio State University as part of the Medical Scientist Training Program.  Dr. Lunsford then completed her general surgery residency and a surgical research fellowship at Duke University followed by a clinical fellowship in multi-organ abdominal transplantation and hepatobiliary surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  Dr. Lunsford is the recipient of a research career development award from the Association of Women Surgeons as well as a highly competitive National Institutes of Health (NIH) K08 award from the NIDDK for her translational research in the mechanism and impact of pre-transplant immune dysfunction in liver transplant recipients.  Dr. Lunsford is also well known for her clinical research in liver cancer and liver transplantation for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, and she is a member of the International Cholangiocarcinoma Research Network. 

IN THE NEWS.............

On March 5, 2019, Dr. Amariliz Rivera (PI), Assistant Professor, Center for Immunity and Inflammation and the Department of Pediatrics, and Dr. Chaoyang Xue (co-PI), Associate Professor, Public Health Research Institute, were awarded an NIH multi-principal investigator grant for $749,562 (per year for 5 years) toward the development of Mechanisms of vaccine protection against AIDS-associated Cryptococcus infection. Although often overlooked as a significant health problem, pulmonary infections with fungal pathogens present a clinical problem of growing concern. Cryptococcosis, caused by Cryptococcusneoformans(Cn) and its sibling species C.gattii, remains one of the most important opportunistic infections that afflict AIDS patients. Thus, there is a significant, unmet medical need to develop new treatments against life-threatening fungal infections. In this collaborative project we identified a novel, vaccine strain of Cryptococcus neoformans (Fbp1-deficient) that confers significant protection against infection with the virulent, parental strain. Our overarching goal is to systematically decipher the immune mechanisms of vaccine-induced protection and to identify and validate specific Fbp1-regulated targets that shape the immunogenicity of C. neoformans.

In July 2019, Dr. Karen Edelblum, Assistant Professor and Chancellor Scholar in the Department of Pathology, Immunology & Laboratory Medicine received a $1.7 million R01 grant to study the role of interferon signaling on intraepithelial lymphocyte (IEL) activation and homeostasis. Earlier this spring in February, Dr. Edelblum was awarded a $233,000 NIH R21 grant to investigate how IELs contribute to regulation of the intestinal barrier during acute inflammation. Recently in September, Dr. Edelblum also received a $238,000 NIDDK IBD Genetics Consortium R21 ancillary grant to evaluate the composition and function of IELs in healthy patients and those with active ileal Crohn’s disease. Edelblum says that together, these studies will significantly expand our understanding of how immune activation in response to both enteric infection and inflammation affects this understudied population of immune sentinels.


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.