Current Status: M3
Graduate Department: Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis
Other Degrees: Bachelor of Science in Biology, Haverford College;
Advisor(s): Richard Cummings, PhD;
Hometown: Ambler, PA
Singing in the Showtime Singers of Atlanta, playing guitar, rock climbing, jogging, volleyball, shopping at the farmers market, cooking, butterflies, the Open Jewish Project.
The long-term goal of my research is rational vaccine design to protect against the parasitic helminth, Schistosoma mansoni, a causative agent of the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis. One of the major barriers to understanding immunity to this parasite has been that the immune response primarily targets glycan, rather than protein antigens. Vaccine design has been largely empirical, and this especially pertains to design of glycan-based vaccines. Furthermore, because they are eukaryotes, parasite glycans share many structural features with those of their mammalian hosts. To address these issues, we employ a variety of techniques to learn which parasite glycan determinants are seen as “foreign” by the host, and how they can be optimally presented in an immunogenic fashion. Factors such as the type of protein linkage, density of glycan, poly-valency, membrane-bound presentation and adjuvant could all be important. We are currently investigating presentation of parasite glycans by mammalian cells, and have found that this approach successfully generates a specific anti-glycan memory response. This platform can now be used to test some of the above questions about optimal presentation of glycan antigens. We also use glycan microarrays, a powerful technology pioneered by our lab and utilized by researchers throughout the world, to refine our understanding of the parasite’s antigenic glycans. We are continually expanding our array to include a greater variety of parasite glycan determinants, and can use it to compare antibody responses among various infected and/or resistant humans and animal models. Taken together, all of these experiments should lead to a more informed perspective on how to design vaccines targeting eukaryotic glycan antigens.
View publications on PubMed