William Rand Kenan Professor of Genetics
Director, Center for Translational Immunology
Co-Director, Inflammatory Diseases Institute
Area of Interest
Analysis of the NLR gene family
A major focus is the study of NLR genes in diseases, ranging from inflammatory disorders, cancer and infectious diseases. We are working with multiple labs across campus to assess the roles of NLRs in diseases. One of our unique discoveries is that many NLRs are negative regulators of inflammation. As a consequence, their dysregulation can lead to immunologic imbalance. For example, NLR-X1 reduces inflammation that promotes cancer growth. This gene is downregulated in colon cancer and colitis in humans, and conventional anti-inflammatory therapeutics can be repurposed to combat cancer or colitis resulting from low NLR-X1 in mouse models. We also find that negative NLRs maintain tolerance to microbiome and prevent microbiome imbalance. Importantly, restoring specific bacteria order restores colon health suggesting a therapeutic path forward.
Usage of innate immune agonists as vaccine adjuvant
We are working to explore the use of nano-particles and micro-particles to deliver innate immune agonists that can control immunity. We have used these agonists to mode the immune response as to elicit superior immunity for the development of vaccines for cancer and infectious viruses. We will continue to focus on difficult-to-treat cancers such as triple-negative breast cancer and high impact infections such as influenza, Dengue and Zika viruses.
Awards and Honors
- Highly Cited Researchers (Top 1%), Web of Science, Clarivate Analytics, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023
- Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2022
- ICIS-Pfizer Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research, 2021
- American Association of Immunologists, Vice President 2019-2020
- NCI Outstanding Investigator Award, 2019-2016
- Clarivate/Analytics Highly Cited Researcher 2017, 2018
- Hyman L. Battle Distinguished Cancer Research Award, 2017
- Thomas Reuter Highly Cited Researcher, 2015, 2016
- Academia Sinica, Taiwan, elected member, 2015
- Henry Kunkel Society, elected member, 2015
- University Award for the Advancement of Women, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2013
- American Association of Immunologists Centennial Conference, Distinguished Lecturer, 2013
- American Association of Immunologists Life Technologies Meritorious Award, 2013
News and Stories
UNC Lineberger faculty named world’s most highly cited researchers
Twelve UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center members were named to Clarivate’s 2023 Highly Cited Researchers™ list, which recognized scientists who published papers that ranked in the top 1% of cited publications in their field between 2012-2022.
UNC Lineberger faculty recognized as world’s most highly cited researchers
Twelve UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center members were named to Clarivate’s 2022 Highly Cited Researchers list.
Biological pathways provide evidence for how to overcome barriers limiting cancer immunotherapies
UNC Lineberger researchers have found a possible way to overcome barriers that block anti-cancer immune responses. Their findings could have implications for treating solid tumors, including breast and pancreatic cancer.
Baric, Ting elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences
UNC Lineberger's Ralph Baric, PhD, and Jenny P. Ting, PhD, have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. They join seven other UNC Lineberger members with this honor.