Janet Babirye joins the lab

The Vance Lab is thrilled to officially welcome our newest graduate student, Janet Babirye, to the lab. Janet hails from Kampala, Uganda, and attended Makerere University. During her MSc, she studied alternative diagnostic biomarkers for tuberculosis under Dr. Misaki Wayengera. She first visited Berkeley in 2019 as a visiting student to Sarah Stanley’s lab, before deciding to join the MCB program at Berkeley for her PhD. She is excited to continue working on host-pathogen interactions in the Vance Lab. For her PhD, Janet will be studying the adaptive immune response to Shigella flexneri, taking advantage of our new mouse model for Shigella that makes possible physiologically relevant in vivo immunological analyses of this important pathogen for the first time. In her free time, Janet enjoys dancing, running, hiking, and cooking. We are delighted to have Janet join the Vance Lab!

Lab update, March 2021

Well, it’s been about a year since the last website update…and what a year it has been. There is no point belaboring the challenges of doing research under pandemic restrictions, but I’m proud of the tremendous resilience shown by the lab. If nothing else, this year has confirmed the vital importance of research on infectious diseases.

A few updates:

– Three postdoctoral fellows have departed for greener pastures in the past year: Andrew Sandstrom is now an Asst Prof at UT Southwestern, Patrick Mitchell is now an Asst Prof at University of Washington, and Lívia Yamashiro is now a scientist at Arcus Biosciences. We miss them all dearly!

– Our R01 grant application on Shigella was funded and we are now excited to pursue our work on this fascinating and important human pathogen. Our collaborative P01 application (with Sarah Stanley, Jeff Cox and Dan Portnoy (PI)) received a good score and we anxiously await the Notice of Award. This P01 is now largely focused on M. tuberculosis, the major interest of Dmitri and Marian in the lab.

– Katie took advantage of her diminished time in lab during the pandemic to write a terrific review in Nature Immunology on inflammasomes and adaptive immunity. I encourage you to take a look!

– Patrick, Justin, Elizabeth, and Roberto (along with collaborators including the Lesser and Rauch Labs) published the lab’s first Shigella paper in eLife. Justin is now busily following up on this work, with help from our current rotation student, Janet Babirye.

– Our lab manager Peter has been accepted to the MCB PhD program at the University of Washington and plans to attend in the Fall. Congrats Peter!

Good lab news

I haven’t updated the lab website in about a year…and there has been quite a bit of good news that has accumulated, which I will try to recap in this one “catch-up” post. In no particular order…:

• We’ve published a few papers: Price et al solved the mystery of what IFN gamma-induced factors are required for control of Legionella replication; Ji et al published what we hope is the first in a long string of papers on M. tuberculosis; Gonçalves and Margolis et al published the collaborative results of Dario Zamboni’s sabbatical visit to the lab; two other collaborative papers (Tenthorey et al and Burke et al) were also published; and most recently, we received the good news that Yamashiro et al (originally released on bioRxiv) has been accepted for publication (stay posted).

• Daisy and Kristen, along with various collaborators, reported on bioRxiv their discovery of Sp140 as the gene within the Sst1 locus that causes susceptibility to tuberculosis

• Elizabeth was awarded an NSF Fellowship and passed her qualifying exams (taken over zoom under less-than-ideal circumstances). Congrats Elizabeth!

• Patrick and Justin, along with collaborative help from several others, revealed to the world their new oral infection model for Shigella, launching an entirely new and exciting direction of research for the lab. This was followed up by news that the lab received a fundable 6%ile score on their Shigella R01.

• We also received news that we have been awarded a grant from the Bakar Fellows program to try to translate some recent unpublished discoveries from Moritz into novel human therapeutics. Based on work done by Patrick in the lab, we also received seed funding from the CEND Covid Catalyst fund to investigate a possible role for inflammasomes in COVID-19.

• Patrick and Andrew wrapped up successful job hunts — in a very very challenging academic job market. Stay posted for official news soon…

• A huge accomplishment involving several folks in the lab was our collaborative submission of the renewal of our P01 project grant. Phew!

• The most recent good news is that after 14 weeks of COVID-related shut down, the lab is now back in operation (at ~25% capacity). It’s been great to see how resilient everyone has been — taking advantage of time away from the lab to gather their thoughts, acquire new bioinformatic skills, submit and re-submit papers, write reviews, etc. But I think it is fair to say we are all excited to be back in the lab (even if only part time).

Welcome to Marian and Brenna

The Vance Lab is delighted to welcome two new graduate students to the lab, Marian Fairgrieve and Brenna Remick.

Marian is from Seattle, WA and attended the University of Washington. As an undergrad, she studied developmental physiology at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center under Dr. Adam Luckenbach. Marian then joined the world of immunology as a researcher in the lab of Dr. Michael Gale. She’s very excited to continue working on innate immunology at UC Berkeley! When not in lab, Marian is somewhere in the great outdoors!

Brenna is from New Jersey and attended Cornell University, where she did cancer research in the lab of Dr. Robert Weiss. She’s excited to try her hand at studying host-pathogen interactions. When not in lab, Brenna enjoys running, board games, and trying new food. 

Welcome to Elizabeth Turcotte

Elizabeth Turcotte

We are thrilled to welcome our newest graduate student, Elizabeth Turcotte, to the lab. Elizabeth hails from Cedar Falls Iowa, and attended the University of Northern Iowa, where she worked on Leishmania with Dr. Nilda Rodriguez. Elizabeth then did a 2-year postbac at the NIH studying mitosis in the lab of Dr. Mary Dasso. She is happy to be back in the world of host-pathogen interactions. When not in lab, you can find Elizabeth at home looking after her 2 cats, her tortoise, and her fish.

Congrats to Kristen Witt on NSF Fellowship

The lab was thrilled to learn that Kristen Witt has been awarded an NSF Graduate Student Fellowship. Kristen is studying the regulation of the interferon response to infection, with a particular eye towards dissecting its biochemical and structural basis. We are all happy for Kristen to earn this well-deserved ego-boost just before her qualifying exam on April 30.

Welcome to Dmitri Kotov

The lab is delighted to welcome Dmitri Kotov as a new postdoctoral fellow to the lab. Dmitri joins us from the great state of Minnesota, where he was a graduate student in Marc Jenkins lab. During his PhD, Dmitri published three first author papers (link, link, link) on, what else, various aspects of T cell biology. For his postdoctoral work, Dmitri has bravely decided to leave the safe harbor of small round lymphocytes and is setting off to tackle the immunology of tuberculosis. We are looking forward to seeing how new tools can tackle old questions, and uncover new questions at the same time.

Our first paper on Mycobacterium tuberculosis

We recently posted our first paper on Mycobacterium tuberculosis on Biorxiv. This was a big step for the lab, as I have been talking about getting into TB research for years, but with little to show for all the talk! Credit is due to many, first and foremost, to Daisy Ji, who bravely took on TB relatively late in her PhD, and who worked incredibly hard to pull it off. Nothing would have happened if it were not for a sabbatical visit to the lab from Heran Darwin who not only trained us but inspired us to believe that it really was possible to make progress on this difficult pathogen! Our TB colleagues at Berkeley, including Sarah Stanley and Jeff Cox and the members of their labs, were essential in helping us navigate all the complexities of working with a BSL3 pathogen. The Sst1S mice were originally produced and characterized through the heroic efforts of our collaborator, Igor Kramnik. It has been great to get to know the wider TB community and we are looking forward to feedback on this work and our continuing efforts on TB.

Former lab manager Katia Troha presents seminar on her PhD research

Today we had the honor of a visit from former lab manager Katia Troha, who delivered an outstanding seminar on her PhD Thesis work in the Buchon and Lazzaro Labs at Cornell University. Katia was in the Vance Lab from 2008-2012. Her claim to fame in the Vance Lab was running the ENU mutagenesis project that identified the STING-deficient goldenticket mouse, now in use in laboratories around the world. Katia was also the first to propose that STING might be a direct receptor for cyclic-dinucleotides (an idea foolishly dismissed by her PI at the time). During her PhD, Katia has uncovered a very interesting role for the CrebA transcription factor in mediating tolerance to infection. We can’t wait to see who will win the sweepstakes to have Katia join their lab as a postdoctoral fellow!

Katia Troha presents seminar at UC Berkeley

Kickball playoffs: Summer 2018

July 6, 2018 — Kick-in-a-box, a rag-tag group (comprised of Vance and Barton Lab members, other immunologists past and present, and other hangers-on) fought a tense semi-final kickball battle against The Unicorns before eventually succumbing 3-2 in extra innings.  Especially notable was the two RKIs (runs kicked-in) by Daisy Ji, as well as the large number of international free-agents on the team, who demonstrated their mastery of the finer points of force plays, base-running, and kicking the ball on the ground. Congrats to all! What a relief to be able to enjoy a beer in the stands and watch the Finals (eventually won in impressive fashion by Stray Kats)

Kick-in-a-box after the semi-final

Back row (from L to R): Russell, Benjamin, Daisy, Klemens, Bella, Moritz and Kathleen

Front row (from L to R): Andrew, Lívia, Lieselotte, Natalie, Patrick, Molly and Gustavo