Current Status: GRAD
Graduate Department: Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis
Other Degrees: A.B. Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University;
Advisor(s): Jacques Galipeau, MD;
Hometown: Boston, MA
Christopher Lewis is a graduate student working with Dr. Jacques Galipeau, Professor of Pediatrics, Hematology & Medical Oncology, and director of the Emory Personalized Immunotherapy Center (EPIC). Embedded within the blood bank at the Emory University Hospital, EPIC is the launchpad for innovative first-in-human clinical trials using culture-expanded stem cells harvested from our patients. In an FDA-certified and GMP-compliant facility, the Galipeau lab develops personalized cellular therapeutics to treat autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's diease, in which the patient's immune system attacks their own gastrointestinal system. The dissertation research of Chris focuses principally on mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which can be derived from umbilical cord, fat or bone marrow tissues. MSCs are powerfully anti-inflammatory, and are thus being explored in autoimmune syndromes as well as an active tolerance-inducing cell therapy after bone marrow transplantation (BMT). EPIC is currently conducting a clinical trial using MSCs to improve engraftment for patients undergoing BMT to cure their sickle cell disease.
As a PhD student in the Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis program, Chris studies the biochemical signaling pathways that enable MSCs to exert their tolerogenic properties. This work involves human blood and stem cell culture, flow cytometry, transcriptomics, and molecular biology techniques. Chris graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and a secondary in Romance Languages and Literatures. As an undergraduate, he studied iron sequestration in tuberculosis and synthesized influenza antiviral compounds. He also spent two years working for Boston Children's Hospital, studying mouse models of smallpox vaccination, eczema and food allergen sensitization.
His language and literature studies have focused on texts in Catalan, Portuguese, and Spanish. As a Weissman International Fellow, he spent a summer interning for CatSalut, the single-payer healthcare system of Barcelona and Catalunya. Since arriving at Emory, Chris has collaborated with faculty at the Rollins School of Public Health, including the Department of Environmental Health, studying aromatic hydrocarbon toxins and their relation to carcinogenesis. As an independent research student with the Rollins Department of Global Health, he traveled to eastern Cuba to study their public healthcare system, drawing comparisons with systems in Honduras and Brazil. Chris volunteers with the South Georgia Migrant Farmworker Health Project, Good Samaritan Health Center, the Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia, and various Latin American consulates as a medical interpreter and clinical student at community health fairs and cancer screening events.
He is the co-founder of the Teddy Bear Hospital at Emory University, a community outreach initiative working with Atlanta kindergarteners to destigmatize medical interactions by allowing kids to be 'parents' of their teddy bears, manipulate medical equipment and experience preventive health in a safe, fun environment. With support from the DeKalb County School Board, the TBH recently began an IRB clinical trial, to assess if such interventions can reduce childhood medical anxiety. Chris is the director of Sickle & Flow, a hip hop benefit concert and community outreach program in Atlanta, Georgia. Through partnership with scientists, patient advocates and local musicians, Sickle & Flow seeks to increase awareness of sickle cell disease and encourage more people to register as blood and marrow donors, in order to more effectively treat and cure this very common hematologic disease.
Stem cell therapy, public health, Romance languages
Leadership in MD/PhD Program: Student Association member