Innate immunity, inflammation, and macrophages
Nearly every disease has an underlying component of inflammation, or involves tissue damage and repair. Macrophages are an amazingly adaptable innate immune cell that detects infection and damage through innate immune receptors such as Toll-like receptors (TLRs). To boost effectiveness of vaccines and immunotherapies, or to dampen chronic inflammation and autoimmunity, we must understand the molecular mechanisms underlying these responses.
The overall theme of our research is to understand how innate immune receptors are regulated. This is important for human health because although most innate immune receptors detect unique molecular structures present on microbes and not in the host, a few detect highly conserved structures such as nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). Transmembrane receptors that detect DNA and RNA belong to a family of innate immune receptors called Toll-like receptors (TLRs).
The research in the lab addresses three broad questions:
1. What are the intracellular regulatory mechanisms that govern activity of innate immune receptors?
2. What are the contributions of TLRs and macrophages in broader applications such as vaccines, immune responses to infection, and response to biomaterials?
3. How do extracellular cues modulate macrophage TLR signaling and inflammation?
Toll-like Receptor Regulation
We believe that identification of regulatory events for TLRs will reveal proteins or pathways that are therapeutic targets for interfering with TLR function and will lead to new treatments for autoimmune diseases such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. We recently discovered that microenvironmental mechanics regulate TLR signaling and macrophage function. Findings from our study can be found in our recent paper.
Cornell PACE and Rising Stars Programs
Dr. Leifer and Dr. Hector Aguilar-Carreno are co-Directors of Cornell's new Program for Achieving Career Excellence (PACE), and the Rising Stars Program. These programs are funded by an NIAID/NIH R25 educational grant. The goal of the PACE program is to provide our early career faculty in the area of allergy and infectious diseases skills and opportunities to ensure their success as faculty at Cornell. The Rising Stars Program has a goal of enriching the diversity of applicants for faculty positions here at Cornell by providing support and practice interview opportunities for underrepresented minority researchers. If you are interested in PACE or Rising Stars, please see out website, or contact Dr. Leifer or Dr. Aguilar-Carreno.
October 2022 Graduate student Karla García-Martínez presents an award talk and poster at the Society for Leukocyte Biology Meeting.
September 2022 Jamie Cockey passes his qualifying examination and is now officially a PhD candidate!
September 2022 Summer Veterinary Leadership student Christina Kerkenpass wins the Cell Biology Prize! Congratulations!
May 2022 Undergraduate researcher Alex Woo completes her studies and moves on to a post-bac at at NIH. Good luck!
April 2021 Dr. Leifer completes multiple science communication projects including a video on "how vaccines work" and another about "vaccine safety". Check them out and share them with friends.
April 2021 Dr. Leifer is awarded promotion to the rank of full Professor!
January 2021 Dr. Leifer is interviewed for an in depth discussion of COVID-19 vaccines for the Ithaca Times.
January 2021 DVM/PhD student Jamie Cockey joins the lab.
December 2020 Dr. Leifer appears on NY1 morning show talking about COVID vaccines.
August 2020 Karla Garcia-Martinez passes her qualifying examination and is now officially a PhD candidate!
June 2020 The SLB annual meeting has gone virtual and is free for everyone! Check out the fantastic talks that are planned.
June 3, 2020 The lab is back open! We received official approval of our safety plan to work in the lab during the COVID-19 Pandemic. We have been on pause since March 18.
May 2020 Check out this awesome YouTube Video series on COVID-19 by Cornell graduate student Jonathan Villanueva. Dr. Leifer is featured speaking about immunology.
May 2020 The lab received a small pilot grant to work on SARS-CoV-2.
March 2020 Dr. Leifer presented the lab findings on cancer extracellular vesicle effects on macrophages at the Center on the Physics of Cancer Metabolism Site Visit.
March 2019 Review on Mechanoregulation of Macrophages and TLRs is accepted for publication at Innate Immunity
January 2019 Dr. Leifer filmed a pro-vaccination spot for the Immunization Coalition of Tompkins County.
December 2018 The last Immune podcast of the year was recorded. You can find Immune here: microbe.tv/immune
December 2018 The Leifer lab was funded, along with the Stokol and Nishimura labs, to study interactions between cancer cells and macrophages.
CONGRATULATIONS Erika Gruber for starting her faculty position as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pathology at NC State College of Veterinary Medicine.
October 2018 The Leifer lab was funded. along with the Putnam and August labs) to investigate the innate immune response to a novel combination-adjuvant vaccine platform. The goal is to develop broadly neutralizing antibodies to influenza, but the project will be both basic and translational. Trainees interested in a postdoctoral fellow position should contact Dr. Leifer for further information.
October 2018 The Cornell Institute of Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease (CIHMID) is soliciting applications for postdoctoral fellowships.
Details can be found at http://cihmid.cornell.edu/postdoc.html
September 2018 Dr. Leifer and Dr. Aguilar-Carreno are awarded an R25 to support a major program to hire diverse faculty and promote the professional development and success of early career NIAID researchers at Cornell--Cornell PACE
September 24, 2018 Erika's paper is highlighted in Faculty of 1000
July 30, 2018 Cornell covers Erika Gruber's recent paper
July 2018 Josh Jones begins his rotation in the Lab.
June 26-27, 2018 Dr. Leifer co-hosts the Immunology in Health and Disease Symposium with Dr. Pascual from Weill Cornell.
June 4, 2018. Ali Aygun joins the lab for the summer!
June 1, 2018. Dr. Leifer will be recording IMMUNE live at the American Society of Virology Conference. Stay tuned for more details.
May 24, 2018. Summer 2017 Intern Tuan Phan's exciting review on HHV-6 is published in Bone Marrow Transplantation: doi:10.1038/s41409-018-0225-2
April 18, 2018. Erika Gruber's paper is published at International Immunology: https://doi.org/10.1093/intimm/dxy027
October 23, 2017. Dr. Leifer recorded the premier episode of the new podcast, IMMUNE. Look for the launch on November 7, 2017.
August 28, 2017. Welcome to our new undergraduate, Ali Aygun.
July 1, 2017. Christa Heyward completed her post-doctoral position in our lab. Best of luck!
May 2017. Congratulations to Mark Derbyshire and Sean Callagy on their graduation from Cornell!
April 2017. Erika Gruber's manuscript was selected as Cornell's nominee for the Phi Zeta Research Award in Basic Research.