Researchers in the Levings Lab

Researchers in the Levings Lab are made up of clinician scientists, Grad students, Postdoctoral Fellows, lab technicians and managers.


  Raewyn Broady

My research is focused on determining the role T regulatory cells play in ameliorating graft versus host disease. There is evidence in mouse models that suggests Treg cells play a role in the prevention of GVHD but in humans their role has not been clearly defined. In addition to quantifying the number of Tregs in the peripheral blood of patients with GHVD, we are developing methods to assess them in tissues, such as skin, that are affected by the disease.

Clinician Scientist
     
Laura Cook   Laura Cook

My research primarily on antigen-specific Tregs in the context of autoimmunity and inflammatory disease utilising a whole blood flow cytometric assay to measure and isolate these cells. I am also investigating the ability of human IL-10-secreting type 1 regulatory cells to suppress the inflammasome and developing methods to expand these cells ex vivo. 

Awards:
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Postdoctoral Fellowship

Postdoctoral Fellow
     
  Nick Dawson

After insertion of an allograft, a common complication that occurs in patients is graft versus host disease. However, there is increasing evidence that acceptance of a graft is dependent, in part, by numbers of regulatory T cells. My research involves determining whether the Treg gene signature developed in our lab can predict susceptibility of GVHD after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Awards:
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research / Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship - Doctoral Award

Graduate Student
     

  Rosa Garcia

Rosa is in charge of the daily operations in the lab, making sure everything runs smoothly. Her research interest is on Tregs in the site of inflammation and the role of inflames microenvironment on the biology of this cells. She is looking for specific markers to distinguish these cells and their mechanism of action

Lab Manager

 

  Jana Gillies
         
IPEX is a fatal autoimmune disease caused by a defect in the development of regulatory T cells. The disease results from mutations in FoxP3, a transcription factor which is necessary for the development of regulatory T cells. My project is aimed at understanding how the FoxP3 mutations found in IPEX lead to this regulatory T cell defect.

Lab Technician
   
Romy Hoeppli   Romy Hoeppli 

Animal models and early clinical trials have shown that regulatory T cells (Tregs) can induce tolerance after transplantation. As Tregs isolated from the blood are often contaminated with effector T cells, we propose discarded thymuses from children undergoing heart surgery as an alternative and rich source of Tregs for cell-based therapy. My research focuses on developing optimized culture conditions to expand thymic Tregs in vitro and investigating how Tregs induce tolerance in vivo.

Awards:
  • Child and Family Research Institute Sue Carruthers Graduate Studentship
  • Child and Family Research Institute Canucks for Kids Fund Childhood Diabetes Laboratories Graduate Studentship
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research Transplant Research Training Award

PhD Candidate

     

  Jessica Qing Huang

My research currently focuses on tissue based T regulatory cells, especially on skin. Skin resident T cells were isolated donors skin biopsy. Treg characterization and cytokines profiles in skin and peripheral blood are examined in scleroderma and GvHD diseases.

Lab Technician
   
  Sabine Ivison


I majored in microbiology and biochemistry at the University of Muenster, Germany and did my doctoral work (in dubious German) with Paul Tudzynski, studying the role of active oxygen in the pathologic mechanism of the rye pathogen Claviceps purpurea (most notorious for producing the LSD precursor lysergic acid).

As a postdoc in Vancouver I switched to the field of medicine, comparing heat shock protein epitopes in pathogenic and commensal strains of Staphylcococcus- and wondering how the immune system differed between the two (remember flesh eating disease). In my second postdoc with Dr. Ted Steiner, I looked at the influence of stress (ATP, active oxygen) on intestinal cell sensing of bacterial flagellin; did strange (but gentle) things to mice to further the understanding of inflammatory bowel disease. I moved to a research associate position with Kirk Schultz, who specializes in leukemia immunotherapy. In his lab I organized his clinical research trials, ran yet more ELISAs and dabbled a bit on the side in the immunostimulatory properties of mitochondrial DNA, among other things. Finally I have landed in Megan's hardcore adaptive immunology lab where I am all about developing and standardizing assays for the clinical setting. One project aims to stratify patients with autoimmune disease based on likely response to biologicals, another deals with immune monitoring of post-transplant patients by flow cytometry.

My prevailing interest is in the conflict between self and everything that is not self (including altered self-cancer, and somebody else's self-transplant). Which covers just about everything. 

Research Associate

     

  Avery Lam 

My research focuses on novel mechanisms of Treg function. Our lab has found that human and murine Tregs produce chemokines to attract their target cells for suppression. My work aims to better understand the underlying mechanism and to characterize their defect in autoimmune disease. Additionally, we are examining the potential of Tregs to mediate tissue repair in the context of cell therapy.

Awards:
  • CIHR Doctoral Research Award 
  • Canucks for Kids Diabetes Laboratories Graduate Studentship, BC Children's Hospital
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research / Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship – Master’s Award
  • UBC Affiliated Fellowship

  • Declined: CFRI Partnership Graduate Studentship

  • Deferred: UBC Four Year Fellowship

PhD Student
     
    Caroline Lamarche

My goal is to increase tolerance in solid organ transplant recipients by harnessing the natural properties of regulatory T cells (Tregs). Dr Levings’ lab developed a way to improve the potency of Tregs by engineering them to express a chimeric antigen receptor specific for a transplant-relevant antigen: HLA-A2. My role is to demonstrate whether A2-CAR Tregs can control allograft rejection and induce long-term transplant tolerance.

Awards:

  • CIHR Postdoctoral Research Award
  • Société Québécoise de Néphrologie
  • Council of Physicians, Dentists and Pharmacists of Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital
Postdoctoral Fellow
MD
 
     
  Katie N. MacDonald

The efficient production of large numbers of Treg cells in culture is currently a key obstacle to the widespread use of Treg-based therapies. My research aims to optimize the expansion of Treg cell cultures through investigating the timing and levels of environmental stimuli and metabolites that most improve Treg production.

Awards:
  • NSERC CGS-M (Canada Graduate Scholarship – Masters Program)
Masters Student
     
      Majid Mojibian

I began my professional career as a medical laboratory doctor.  My strong interest in research, particularly in immunology, compelled me to enter a PhD program in immunology at the University of Ottawa.  My specific interest in diabetes started when I joined the research team of Dr. Fraser Scott at the Ottawa Health Research Institute. I expanded my technical expertise and knowledge in his laboratory, which has a major focus on understanding diabetes-promoting interactions between dietary antigens, the gut immune system, and the endocrine pancreas.  After receiving my PhD, I trained in the lab of Dr. Timothy Kieffer in the area of developing novel therapies for patients with diabetes. I was privileged to collaborate with our industry partners, enGene, a pioneer in gene delivery technology to mucosal tissue, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen BetaLogics group, an expert in developing human embryonic stem cell-based therapies for treating type 1 diabetes.                                                           

In Dr. Levings' team, I manage projects involving laboratory-based research in the area of immune regulation. The projects I work on are focused on translation to clinical applications and the initiation of first-in-human clinical trials in the fields of transplant medicine and autoimmunity. Specifically, my role involves collaborators and working with staff affiliated with industrial funding partners as well as with collaborators who are located at different sites nationally and internationally. 

Research and Development Manager 
PhD
     
Anne Pesenacker    Anne Pesenacker

I'm interested in regulatory T cells (Tregs), how they work and why they fail to control autoimmunity. To further understand how Tregs work in health but not in autoimmunity, I investigate one particular new mechanism of Treg action. We have discovered that Tregs can produce so called chemokines, we believe to facilitate close proximity to the cells, they are regulating. My aim is to find the mechanisms controlling Treg chemokine production, so that we might be able to restore this process when it is broken. Furthermore I'm studying Treg gene signatures, and how they might be used track Treg 'fitness' in the clinic. I'm particular interested in autoimmune type 1 diabetes and childhood arthritis.

Awards:
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Postdoctoral Fellowship

Postdoctoral Fellow
     
  May Wong


Antigen recognition by T-cells is crucial for their function. My research focuses on whether engineered antigen recognition by Tregs can rescue their ability to suppress unwanted inflammation and whether antigen specific T-cell responses can be used as a prognostic tool in these incurable diseases.

Technician

     
Dan Wu    Dan Wu

We have found that a pseudokinase, Trib1, is highly expressed in Tregs. Although lacking the catalytic domain for phosphorylation, the tribbles proteins can modulate various cellular processes by interacting with a number of transcription factors and signalling kinases, including FOXP3 and AKT, which are important regulators of Treg function. My project aim to establish the expression profiles of tribbles proteins and to understand their functions in human and mouse Tregs.

Awards:
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research / Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate  Scholarship - Doctoral Award

PhD Student


View past team members here.