Immunology In-The-News Archive

Summer 2018

Rosenkranz Prize winner hopes to develop malaria vaccine for pregnant women

Prasanna Jagannathan said the $100,000 prize will allow his lab team to ramp up their research in Uganda.

Malaria claims nearly a half-million lives worldwide each year, yet scientists still know little about the immunology of the disease that has plagued humanity for thousands of years.

There were 216 million cases in 2016, according to the World Health Organization. Sub-Saharan Africa carries 80 percent of the global burden of this mosquito-borne infectious disease, which devastates families, disrupts education and promotes the cycle of poverty.

It is particularly brutal to pregnant women, who are three times more likely to suffer from a severe form of the disease, leading to lower birthweight among their children and higher rates of miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth.

“Pregnant women and their unborn children are more susceptible to the adverse consequences of malaria, so we are working to investigate new strategies and even lay the foundation for a vaccine to prevent malaria in pregnancy,” said Prasanna Jagannathan, MD, an assistant professor of medicine and this year’s recipient of the Dr. George Rosenkranz Prize for Health Care Research in Developing Countries.

Jagannathan, an infectious disease specialist who is also a member of Stanford’s Child Health Research Institute, said the prize will allow his lab members to ramp up their research in Uganda. His team is particularly interested in how strategies that prevent malaria might actually alter the development of natural immunity to malaria.

Spring 2017

Trial led by Mark Genovese wins Clinical Research Forum award

In the trial, a new drug proved safe and effective for hard-to-treat rheumatoid arthritis patients. A national organization of senior researchers named the trial one of the top 10 for 2016. A clinical trial led by Mark Genovese, MD, Stanford professor of immunology and rheumatology, has been recognized by the Clinical Research Forum as one of the top 10 clinical studies of 2016.

Fibrosis reversed when ‘don’t eat me’ signal blocked

A common signaling pathway unites diverse fibrotic diseases in humans, Stanford researchers have found. An antibody called anti-CD47, which is being tested as an anti-cancer agent, reverses fibrosis in mice. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have identified a pathway that, when mutated, drives fibrosis in many organs of the body. “The variety of diseases caused by overproduction of fibroblasts has made finding a common root cause very challenging, in part because there has been no good animal model of these conditions,” said Irving Weissman, MD, professor of pathology and of developmental biology.

David Schneider appointed chair of microbiology and immunology

David Schneider, PhD, whose research focuses on resilience to infection and developing mathematical models to predict recovery and well-being, succeeds Peter Sarnow in post. He has been appointed chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology. His five-year term began April 1.

Winter 2017

Drug combination defeats dengue, Ebola in mice

To develop a potential antiviral treatment, Stanford researchers adopted an unusual approach: Rather than trying to disable viral enzymes, they targeted proteins the infected individual makes — and the virus needs.

“We’ve shown that a single combination of drugs can be effective across a broad range of viruses — even when those viruses hail from widely separated branches of the evolutionary tree,” said the study’s senior author, Shirit Einav, MD, assistant professor of infectious diseases and of microbiology and immunology.

Bodywide immune response important for fighting cancer

Effective anti-tumor activity requires a systemic, rather than only a local, immune response at the tumor site. A Stanford study may help clinicians pinpoint why only some cancer patients respond to immunotherapies.

“Immunotherapy can be remarkably effective against cancer, but we don’t know why some patients respond and some don’t,” said Edgar Engleman, MD, professor of pathology and of medicine. “We don’t understand the parameters that determine efficacy. In this study, we analyzed millions of living cells simultaneously for 40 parameters from multiple tissues throughout the body to show that you need a systemwide immune response to effectively attack and eradicate a tumor.”

15 School of Medicine researchers named CZ Biohub investigators

The researchers will be given funding by the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub to develop tools and technologies that support the organization’s goal of curing, preventing or managing every disease. Among the fifteen, three of our program's own have been selected as Junior Investigators, Catherine Blish MD, PhD, Taia Wang MD, PhD, and Ellen Yeh MD, PhD.

Caffeine may counter age-related inflammation

A chronic inflammatory process that occurs in some, but not all, older people may trigger cardiovascular problems, a new Stanford study shows. Part of the solution might be found in a cup of coffee.

Mark Davis, PhD, a professor of microbiology and immunology and the director of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection, shares senior authorship of the study with Benjamin Faustin, PhD, a cell biologist at the University of Bordeaux in France. Davis is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

Spectrum awards $1.74 million in pilot grants to 43 projects

Stanford’s clinical and translational research center has awarded funding to teams of multidisciplinary investigators who are tackling health care problems through novel approaches.


Fall 2016

$25 million awarded to center for study of regulatory science

The FDA is funding a collaboration between Stanford and UCSF to improve the regulatory infrastructure that helps to shape modern biomedical research. The UCSF-Stanford center launched in 2014 with an initial $3.3 million grant from the FDA to develop projects that can help with regulating health care. For example, one project, headed by Russ Altman, MD, PhD, professor of bioengineering, of genetics of medicine and of biomedical data science at Stanford, uses natural language processing and machine learning to analyze the contents of enormous databases of adverse effects from drugs reported by patients and clinicians.

Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection awards 2016-17 seed grants

Seed grants were awarded to seven faculty teams and individuals, as well as to eight young investigators, for the coming year.  The Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection has awarded seed grants to 15 interdisciplinary research projects led by faculty members and young investigators.

DNA sequencing determines lymphoma origin, prognosis

Monitoring cancer DNA in blood can predict recurrence and prognosis and drive treatment decisions. A Stanford study of 92 lymphoma patients suggests similar techniques may work for other tumors. Maximilian Diehn, MD, PhD, and Ash Alizadeh, MD, PhD have found a way to monitor cancer DNA in the blood of patients with lymphoma, which could help identify patients that are likely to be treated successfully.  Alizadeh and assistant professor of radiation oncology Maximilian Diehn share senior authorship of the study, which was published Nov. 9 in Science Translational Medicine. Postdoctoral scholars Florian Scherer, MD, and David Kurtz, MD, and instructor Aaron Newman, PhD, are the lead authors.

Five faculty elected to medical academy

The academy elected Stanford faculty members Laura Carstensen, Christopher Garcia, Mark Krasnow, Mark Musen and Thomas Rando to its membership.


DNA damage response links short telomeres, heart disorder in Duchenne muscular dystrophy

A new study shows that telomeres shorten without cell division in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Subsequent DNA damage responses and mitochondrial dysfunction are likely cause of heart failure.  “This is the first time that telomere shortening has been directly linked to mitochondrial function via a DNA damage response in non-dividing cells,” said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology.


Gene activity predicts progression of autoimmune disease, researchers find

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and six other institutions have designed a new diagnostic tool for a rare and deadly autoimmune disease that affects the skin and internal organs.  The study was published Dec. 22 in JCI Insight. The lead authors are Shane Lofgren, a research associate at Stanford, and Monique Hinchcliff, MD, associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University. The senior author is Purvesh Khatri, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford.  Other Stanford co-authors are professor of dermatology David Fiorentino, MD, PhD; professor of medicine Paul Utz, MD; associate professor of medicine Lorinda Chung, MD; postdoctoral scholars Peggie Cheung, PhD, and Alex Kuo, PhD; and rheumatology fellow Antonia Valenzuela, MD.

Samuel Strober awarded $6.6 million from state stem cell agency

Samuel Strober, MD, a professor of medicine, was awarded $6.6 million by the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine on Dec. 15 to conduct a phase-1 clinical trial to test a new way of inhibiting the rejection of transplanted kidneys. The award marks the 10th clinical trial funded by the institute in 2016.

The clinical trial will test whether injecting blood stem cells and T cells from the kidney donor at the time of transplant will enable the recipient to more readily accept the new organ. The institute called the approach, which would hopefully eliminate the need for ongoing immunosuppressive drug treatment, “deceptively simple” in a blog post about the awards.

New immunotherapy possible for canine cancer

Blocking a cell surface protein called CD47 may effectively treat at least one kind of cancer in dogs, according to a study by researchers at the School of Medicine and other institutions.  The work expands on research by Irving Weissman, MD, professor of pathology and of developmental biology, and his colleagues, who found that blocking CD47 might be useful in treating nearly every kind of human cancer.

New blood test may predict cardiovascular disease

A blood test devised by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists spits out a single number that strongly predicts the development of the world’s most prevalent medical disorder: cardiovascular disease.  While more research remains to be done, there’s good reason to suspect that this test could be used to predict many other diseases of old age, said Mark Davis, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology.

How Zika affects cranial precursor cells

New research shows that cranial neural crest cells can be infected by the Zika virus, causing them to secrete high levels of cytokines that can affect neurons in the developing brain. “Affected babies have small brains and small skulls,” said assistant professor of medicine Catherine Blish, MD, PhD.

Biochemist Peter Kim weighs in on the ambitious goals of the Biohub

Recent discussion with biochemist Peter S. Kim, PhD, who will be heading up an infectious disease project within the Biohub. During that conversation he was asked what he thought of the initiative’s stated mission of investing in science, technology and human ingenuity to help cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of the century...

Podcast: Inside the world of microbiota

Justin Sonnenburg, PhD, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford, discusses how the world of microbes and bacteria interplay with human health.

NIH awards $26.4 million to Stanford researchers for physical activity study

Stanford researchers have been awarded two grants totaling $26.4 million as part of the largest program ever funded by the National Institutes of Health to study the biological mechanisms of physical activity.

Michael Snyder, MD, professor and chair of genetics, and Stephen Montgomery, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and of genetics, were awarded $15.7 million. They will lead a research team using advanced technological tools to identify and characterize the wide range of molecules that form during or after exercise.

Three faculty elected fellows of AAAS

Stanford faculty members in medicine and in Earth science have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Lawrence Steinman, MD, professor of neurology and neurological sciences, was selected for discoveries about the molecular basis for lymphocyte homing to the brain in relapsing multiple sclerosis, which led to an effective approved therapy for multiple sclerosis. Steinman, who holds the George A. Zimmermann Professorship, focuses his research on understanding the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, particularly multiple sclerosis.

Faulty DNA repair makes for old, crotchety immune cells; triggers inflammatory disease

An article in Stanford Medicine about the disturbing tendency of our immune systems, as the years go by, to get stuck in a state of low-grade inflammation — a phenomenon some have nicknamed “inflammaging.” ... Inflammaging’s causes, like its consequences, are undoubtedly manifold. Now, in a study in Immunity, Stanford rheumatologists Connie Weyand, MD, and Jorg Goronzy, MD, orthopedic surgeon Stuart Goodman, MD, and several Stanford colleagues have identified one of them: a failure in DNA repair that impels important immune cells to become old, crotchety and dangerous.

Iron nanoparticles help treat cancer

Stanford researchers accidentally discovered that iron nanoparticles invented for anemia treatment have another use: triggering the immune system’s ability to destroy tumor cells.

5 Questions: Peter Kim on the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub infectious disease project

The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub will include two major research projects intended to help cure and prevent disease. One, focusing on infectious disease, will be led by biochemist Peter Kim. The Biohub, an independent research institute formed in partnership with Stanford, UC-San Francisco and UC-Berkeley, is being funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as part of its pledge of $3 billion toward scientific endeavors aimed at finding ways to cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of the century. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, MD, established the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in 2015.