Microbiology and Immunology

Leonardo M. R. Ferreira, Ph.D.


My goal is to control how the immune system recognizes self and non-self. This knowledge will allow us to reestablish immune tolerance in autoimmunity and organ transplant rejection, as well as to enhance immunity in cancer and persistent infections. I have the broad expertise and motivation necessary to successfully carry out this work. I am an Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and, by courtesy, of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the Hollings Cancer Center. As a graduate student at Harvard University with professors Jack Strominger and Chad Cowan, I studied human pregnancy as a model of immune tolerance and uncovered an enhancer element regulating the expression of the nonclassical tolerance-inducing molecule HLA-G. I was also the first to report the use of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in clinically relevant primary human cells – hematopoietic stem cells and CD4+ T cells – and generated hypoimmunogenic human pluripotent stem cells by combined CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene knockout and knock-in. As a postdoctoral scholar with professors Qizhi Tang and Jeffrey Bluestone at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), I created an anti-HLA-A2 chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and used CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene knock-in to replace the endogenous T cell receptor (TCR) gene with this CAR gene in primary human regulatory T cells (Tregs). The resulting CAR Tregs were suppressive specifically upon recognizing HLA-A2 in vitro and in humanized mice, and trafficked to transplanted HLA-A2+ human islets. My laboratory focuses on using engineered immune receptors to systematically study how specificity, affinity, and signaling modulate T cell function in autoimmunity and organ transplant rejection, as well as on using this knowledge to develop new cellular therapies.


Wei Jiang, M.D., M.S.


We conduct clinical/translational research using human samples (i.e., blood, saliva). Animals are used in verifying the findings from humans and for mechanistic studies.

Current funded main projects as PIs:

  1. Funding period 9/30/2023-7/31/2028. NIDA R01DA059538
    Title: Investigate Host Gene Isoforms Contributing to HIV Persistence in Cocaine Users.
  2. Funding period 3/1/2022-2/28/2026. VA Medical Center CSRD Merit I01CX002422.
    Title: Investigate the mechanism of autoreactive B cell-mediated immunological failure despite virologic suppression in HIV-infected individuals on antiretroviral therapy
  3. Funding period 9/30/2022-7/31/2027. NIDA R01DA055523.

Title: Investigating the effect of oral microbiome on cognition in HIV-infected chronic cannabis users
Main interests:

  1. B cell dysfunction and autoantibodies in HIV (also in COVID-19 and SLE).
  2. Drug abuse (cannabis, cocaine), oral microbiome dysbiosis, and mental health linked to Alzheimer's disease.
  3. Microbiome, gut permeability, systemic microbial translocation, and chronic inflammatory condition in HIV (also in COVID-19 and SLE).
  4. Mechanisms of HIV-related immunopathogenesis (CD4 T cell decline, persistent inflammation, and complications)


Carsten Krieg, Ph.D.


The Translational Immunologists in the Krieg Lab are interested in defining disease promoting biomarkers in cancer and autoimmunity. We use high dimensional single cell technologies such as mass-cytometry-CyTOF and transcriptomic profiling to identify novel biomarkers mainly in primary human patient specimen. Having identified these biomarkers will allow us to define better (immuno-)therapies for patients. More details on the work of the Krieg lab can be found here: https://www.cktherapeutics.com/


Christina Voelkel-Johnson, Ph.D.