Virtual SUMMIT 2021: Meet the Speakers

Gay Crooks, UCLA

photo of Gay CrooksDr. Gay Crooks is Professor and Rebecca Smith Chair in the Departments of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Pediatrics in the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Crooks serves as Co-Director of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center and Director of the Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Program of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. The research focus of her lab has been informed by her clinical role as a pediatric hematopoietic stem cell transplant physician at UCLA, and encompasses four related areas of interest: 1. The cellular and molecular characterization of human hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) and early lymphoid development, 2. Mechanisms of growth and differentiation of the thymic micro-environment during development and after transplantation, 3. Development of hematopoiesis and other mesoderm derivatives from human pluripotent stem cells (PSC), and 4. Manipulation of T cell differentiation from HSC and PSC for cancer immunotherapy.

Roberto Tinoco, UCI

photo of Roberto TinocoRoberto Tinoco, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor at UC Irvine where he has been a faculty member since 2018. His research is focused on understanding how chronic viral infections and cancers evade the immune response through the development of exhausted T cells. It is significant that immune checkpoints in T cells are a hallmark of their exhausted state. Therapeutic success targeting these inhibitory checkpoints using blocking antibodies can reinvigorate T cells and improve pathogen and tumor control in mice and patients. These drugs are now standard treatment for cancer, but at present are only effective in a subset of patients, highlighting the need to identify additional inhibitory pathways that can be targeted to improve patient outcomes. We identified a new inhibitory checkpoint that promoted T cell exhaustion during chronic viral infection and during melanoma tumor development. Our long-term goal is to understand fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms of T cell dysfunction. The rationale is that once we fully understanding these inhibitory pathways, we can develop effective therapeutics to reinvigorate the immune system and help more patients suffering from these diseases.