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Prof. Shiv Pillai

Affiliation : Program Head, Graduate Program in Immunology and Director, MMSc in Immunology Program, Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard Medical School, USA

Title of the Talk/Lab :Immune Response during SARS-CoV-2 Infection

Shiv Pillai is a Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard Medical School.  He studied medicine at Christian Medical College in Vellore, completed his PhD with Bimal Bacchawat, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow with David Baltimore at the Whitehead institute and MIT. He is the Program Director of an NIH funded Autoimmune Center of Excellence at Massachusetts General Hospital,the Director of the Harvard Immunology PhD and Master’s in Medical Sciences Programs and the Director of MD student research for the Harvard-MIT HST program. He is a Member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard and of the MGH Cancer Center and an Associate Member of the Broad Institute.He has been the recipient of a number of teaching awards at Harvard including the Irving M. London Award for Teaching, the Thomas McMahon Mentoring Award, and has been on Harvard Crimson’s list of Professors of the Year.

Dr. Pillai coined the term “surrogate light chains” for proteins that he identified 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. His 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. 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.

One area of current interest is in pathogenic mechanisms and new therapies that are of importance in systemic sclerosis, IgG4-related disease and Common Variable Immunodeficiency, focusing in part on the role of human CD4+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes and activated B cellsin chronic inflammation and fibrosis.  A second area of interest is the role of DNA methylation in lymphocyte biologyand the relevance of DNA methylation to memory, autoimmunity and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Another  current area of active research is the study of COVID-19 pathogenesis.

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, Harvard College and for the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies.

Lecture: Immune Response during SARS-CoV-2 Infection

Relevant Literature:


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February 18, 2021