Our Team

Scientific Advisory Board

David Rawlings, MD

David J. Rawlings, MD, is chief in the Division of Immunology, overseeing the immunodeficiency clinic at Seattle Childrens Hospital. He is also director of the Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies leading the immunology research programs at Seattle Childrens Research Institute. Dr. Rawlings is professor of pediatrics and adjunct professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

 

He earned his MD with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and completed a residency and chief residency in pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. He was an intramural research fellow at the NIH and a senior fellow at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, UCLA. He completed specialty training in pediatric rheumatology and immunology at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and directed the pediatric rheumatology program at UCLA. Dr. Rawlings has been the recipient of many awards including election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation, Association of American Physicians, and the Childrens Hospital Guild Association Endowed Chair in Pediatric Immunology Research. Dr. Rawlings also co-directs the Northwest Genome Engineering Consortium, a research program funded as part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research and focused on developing enzymatic reagents and delivery methods for site specific gene repair in hematopoietic stem cells. His publications include more than 90 peer-reviewed papers and many invited reviews. His primary research interests include dysregulated B cell development and signaling leading to immunodeficiency, autoimmunity or lymphoid malignancies, and the development of gene therapy for primary immune deficiency diseases. His laboratory uses expertise in basic and clinical immunology, signal transduction and lymphocyte developmental biology to understand how altered signals can lead to immunologic disease, with the ultimate goal of developing translational therapies capable of specifically modulating these disorders. He is also actively involved in collaborative studies with the bone marrow transplant team to design and test of new protocols for stem cell transplant in non-malignant disorders. Dr. Rawlings is a member of multiple regional and national organizations, an NIH study section member, and ad hoc reviewer for various grant programs and immunology journals.

 

Rawlings’s primary research interests include altered lymphoid B cell development and signaling leading to immunodeficiency, autoimmunity or lymphoid malignancies, and the development of gene therapy for primary immune deficiency diseases. The Rawlings laboratory uses expertise in basic and clinical immunology, signal transduction and lymphocyte developmental biology to understand how altered signals can lead to immunologic disease, with the ultimate goal of developing translational therapies capable of specifically modulating these disorders.

 

Dr. Rawlings is a member of multiple regional and national organizations, an NIH study section member, chairman for the USIDNET XLA patient registry, and ad hoc reviewer for various grant programs and immunology journals. I also co-direct the Northwest Genome Engineering Consortium, a research program funded as part of the NIH Roadmap focused on developing enzymatic reagents and delivery methods for site specific gene repair in hematopoietic stem cells.

Richard James, PhD

Richard James is interested in uncovering biochemical mechanisms that contribute to drug resistance and to immunological disease. To do so, Dr. James investigates many features of protein behavior including their impact on differentiation, their interactions with other molecules and whether mutation regulates these processes.

 

Plasma cells are dedicated protein producing machines. The James lab is interested in understanding which proteins are responsible for differentiation of B cells into plasma cells including: activation of naive B cells, response to T cell help, plasmablast expansion and antibody production by plasma cells. The James lab recently developed genome engineering techniques that can be used to edit primary human B cells, which we can subsequently differentiate into plasma cells ex vivo. In collaboration with other projects, Dr. James uses genome engineering to ask whether oncogenic variants associated with lymphoma or those associated with lupus alter B cell development. Dr. James is also developing new ways to express and secrete human proteins in plasma cells, with the eventual goal of developing engineered plasma cells as immunotherapies for diseases caused by defects in secreted proteins (eg hemophilia).

Shiv Pillai, MD, PhD

Dr. Shiv Pillai is a Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences & Technology (HST) at Harvard Medical School. He is the Program Director of the NIH-funded Autoimmune Center of Excellence at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Director of the Harvard immunology PhD and Master in Medical Sciences programs. Dr. Pillai is also Director of MD-student research for the Harvard-MIT HST program. He is a Group Leader at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard; a Member of the MGH Cancer Center; and an Associate Member of the Broad Institute.

 

Dr. Pillai is a world leader in the study of fundamental B-cell immunology. He coined the term surrogate light chains for proteins that he identified (with David Baltimore) as part of a novel receptor, now known as the pre-B receptor, that drives early B-cell development. His laboratory at MGH postulated and provided evidence for the first ligand-independent signaling model during lymphocyte development, now a widely accepted mechanism for both pre-B receptor and pre-T receptor signaling. Dr. Pillai’s laboratory also showed that Btk, the product of the gene mutated in X-linked agammaglobulinemia, is functionally linked to the pre-B receptor and the B-cell receptor. Btk inhibitors are now widely used in lymphoid malignancies and autoimmunity. In addition, his group defined a functional niche for B cells (around sinusoids in the bone marrow); identified the first two mutants that abrogate marginal-zone B-lymphocyte development; developed the concept of a follicular versus marginal zone B-lymphoid cell-fate decision; and discovered two new defined stages of peripheral B-cell development, the marginal zone precursor (MZP) B cell and the follicular type II B cell.

 

In addition, Dr. Pillai’s work has contributed to breakthroughs in understanding the pathogenic mechanisms underlying an autoimmune fibrotic disorder, IgG4-related disease, with ongoing investigations involving the study of systemic sclerosis and common variable immunodeficiency (CVID). These findings have generated several clinical trials targeting the activated lymphocytes responsible for chronic inflammation and fibrosis in patients with these autoimmune disorders. Pillai is also interested in the role of DNA methylation in lymphocyte biology and the relevance of DNA methylation to memory, autoimmunity, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

 

Dr. Pillai is the author of a monograph “Lymphocyte Development” and co-author with Abul Abbas and Andrew Lichtman of two widely used textbooks of immunology. He is the course director of immunology courses at Harvard Medical School and Harvard College and for the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies. Dr. Pillai has been the recipient of a number of teaching awards at Harvard, including the Irving M. London Award for Teaching and the Thomas McMahon Mentoring Award, and he has been included on The Harvard Crimson’s list of Professors of the Year.

 

Dr. Pillai received a medical degree from Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, and a doctorate in biochemistry from Calcutta University. He subsequently completed postdoctoral training in the lab of David Baltimore at MIT.

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