Skip to main content
Menu Search & Directory


The primary tenure-track faculty, research-track faculty and secondary faculty in the Saint Louis University Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology oversee active independent research programs funded by the National Institutes of Health, philanthropic research foundations and industry.

Our faculty members serve on both national peer-review panels and journal editorial boards. They are frequently invited to report on their work at other institutions and publish research in highly visible scientific journals.

Headshot of Elise Alspach, PhD

Elise Alspach, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Ph.D.: Washington University in St. Louis
Postdoctoral Training: Washington University in St. Louis

Research Interests: The Alspach Lab seeks to gain a better understanding of what does and does not generate a successful anti-tumor immune response. Only 20-40% of patients across tumor types benefit from cancer immunotherapies, and more knowledge about what generates resistance in most patients will help to expand the efficacy of life-saving immunotherapies to more people. To do this, we are studying the impact of basic variables, including aging and biologic sex, on tumor-specific T cell responses and T cell-driven tumor evolution.

View Publications

Headshot of Rajeev Aurora, PhD

Rajeev Aurora, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Ph.D.: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory/SUNY at Stony Brook
Postdoctoral Fellowship: Johns Hopkin University School of Medicine

Research Interests: Our long-term goal is to understand the mechanisms that lead to chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation is a healthy response to infection or trauma. In contrast, chronic inflammation leads to, or exacerbates, most disease states. The inflammation process has three phases: an initiation, maintenance, and a resolution phase. Either loss of tolerance or lack of resolution of acute inflammation leads to a chronic activation of the immune system. To understand the genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors we use both mouse models and human studies employing both computational and laboratory tools. Our studies fall into three areas. Osteoimmunology is the emerging field of the crosstalk between the immune and skeletal systems, and we have also developed new therapies to restore resorbed bone. Our laboratory is also interested in how the microbiota modulates the immune system. An important measure of biological fitness is robustness, the ability to respond to and survive in diverse environmental conditions. A feature of robustness is the ability to maintain homeostasis at the biochemical, cellular, organ and organismal level. Maintaining homeostasis at each of these levels requires complex network of (regulatory) interactions that are arranged as positive and negative feedback loops.

Our laboratory is interested in how the regulatory loops are used in biology in general, and specifically in immune response to infections to restore homeostasis and in response to vaccinations. For instance, chronic inflammation arises due to genetic and epigenetic dysfunction(s) caused by environmental insults where the immune system is unable to restore homeostasis. As different chronic inflammatory diseases may arise in individuals from various dysfunctions, we are also using tools of population biology to understand the contribution of genetics, epigenetics and environmental factors to disease states.

View Publications

Headshot of James D. Brien, PhD

James D. Brien, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Ph.D.: Oregon Health & Sciences University
Postdoctoral Fellowship: Washington University School of Medicine

Research Interests: My laboratory studies immunity to viral infectious diseases. The immune system consists of a combination of soluble and cellular mediators, that work collectively to maintain homeostasis and prevent disease. In the case of infection and vaccination, cellular antigen specific immune responses develop, which protect against disease upon re-exposure. We study the induction of B cell and antibody responses to viral infection. How does infection and vaccination generate different B cell populations? Which types of B cell responses protective? As one ages how does the B cell response change? How do changes to the B cell and antibody response lead to protection or disease? We use a broad array of in-vitro and in-vivo experimental systems to address these questions.

View Publications

Headshot of Richard Dipaolo, Ph.D.

Richard J. DiPaolo, Ph.D. 

Professor and Interim Chair
Ph.D.: Washington University School of Medicine
Postdoctoral Fellowship: NIAID, National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Research Interests: The lab studies how immune cells and cytokines contribute to diseases such as autoimmunity and cancer. We use this information to develop and test new strategies and immunotherapeutic approaches to treat autoimmunity and prevent cancer. The cell types we have focused on are CD4+ T regulatory cells (Tregs) and autoreactive CD4+ T cells. The diseases we have tested new immunotherapies include: Type 1 diabetes, autoimmune gastritis, and gastric cancer. The lab also uses deep sequencing of T cell receptor sequences in biological samples to develop diagnostics for infections, vaccines, and disease. We use several cutting-edge technologies, including: preclinical mouse models of human diseases, 3-D organoid cultures, whole exome and single cell RNA sequencing, and advance bioinformatics to better understand the pathophysiology of autoimmune diseases, cancers, infections and vaccines.

View Publications

Headshot of David Griggs

David Griggs, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Ph.D.:  University of Illinois
Postdoctoral Fellowship: Washington University 

Research Interests: David Griggs’ laboratory specializes in drug discovery and the translation of basic discoveries to therapeutic application. It performs assay development and optimization for high-throughput screening of compounds, assessment of target potency and selectivity for lead characterization, and in vitro and in vivo assessment of compound pharmacokinetics and metabolism (ADME). A major interest of Dr. Griggs for many years, both at SLU and in prior research performed while working at global pharmaceutical companies (Searle/Pharmacia/Pfizer), has been the roles of integrins in physiology and disease. The lab has recently discovered and characterized new small molecule compounds that are making exciting progress toward development of an effective treatment to reduce or reverse the destructive organ fibrosis that occurs in many disease conditions. The lab is also currently applying its molecular, cellular and pharmacology expertise in sponsored research programs to develop new medicines for treatment of tuberculosis, cryptosporidiosis and bone disorders.

Headshot of Daniel Hawiger

Daniel Hawiger, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor
M.D.:  Vienna University
Ph.D.:  Rockefeller University
Postdoctoral: Yale University

Research Interests: Conventional dendritic cells (cDC) have crucial roles in priming effector T cells but cDC also have critical tolerogenic functions in the peripheral immune system, extending the maintenance of immune homeostasis and blocking autoimmune responses. However, broad tolerogenic functions of cDC including induction of peripheral regulatory T cells (pTreg cells) could hamper protective immune responses against some pathogens and tumors, whereas an inadvertent activation of autoregressive T cells in the presence of pro-inflammatory stimuli could lead to autoimmunity. Therefore, the maintenance of immune homeostasis by cDC requires specific mechanisms that actively adjust T cell functions to promote tolerance while preserving an overall high plasticity of the immune responses. To clarify the mechanisms by which cDC govern the outcomes of immune activation in the context of autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and other immune responses, studies in my laboratory are focused on the roles of specialized subsets of cDC and their specific functions in tolerance and immunity as well as the relevant molecular mechanisms induced by such cDC in T cells. Our work has elucidated the functions of specific immunomodulatory pathways, cell signaling regulators and transcription factors that establish specific outcomes of the interactions between T cells and cDC.

View Publications

Headshot of Lynda Morrison

Lynda A. Morrison, Ph.D.

Ph.D.: Washington University in St. Louis
Postdoctoral Fellowships: Harvard Medical School

Research Interests: Our lab focuses primarily on drug development, specifically on novel small-molecule inhibitors of herpes simplex virus replication. We are investigating their structure-activity relationships, their pharmacological properties, and, for the most promising molecules, their capacity to inhibit HSV-mediated disease in a mouse model. We are also working to determine the mechanism by which these molecules inhibit virus replication. The lab carries out this translational research through collaborations with scientists at SLU and other universities across the county.

Headshot of Amelia K. Pinto

Amelia K. Pinto

Assistant Professor
:  Oregon Health & Sciences University
Postdoctoral Fellowship: Washington University School of Medicine

Research Interests: Identifying the immune correlates of protection for emerging viral diseases to improve vaccine efficacy. To effectively treat viral infections we must first understand how the protective immune response develops. We identify the specific cellular mechanisms that contribute to beneficial immune responses, and viral control. We are interested in viral sepsis, how metabolic syndrome alters protective immune responses to emerging viral pathogens, and how cross-reactive T cells contribute to viral control.

View Publications

Headshot of John Tavis

John Tavis, Ph.D. 

.: Pennsylvania State University
Postdoctoral Fellowship: University of California, San Francisco

Research Interests: My lab has studied Hepatitis B Virus replication mechanisms and enzymology for more than 25 years. Currently, we have two broad sets of projects focused on the ribonuclease H activity of the multifunctional HBV polymerase protein that has priming, reverse transcriptase, and RNase H domains. The first set of projects are basic science, where we are studying the contributions of the RNase H to HBV biology, characterizing the enzymology of RNase H degradation of the viral pre-genomic RNA during viral replication, and conducting in silico and physical analyses of the RNase H’s structure. The second set of projects are drug discovery efforts targeting the RNase H. We work closely with medicinal chemistry collaborators in these translational studies to identify and characterize inhibitors of the enzyme. We have discovered all but a few of the more than 250 known inhibitors of the enzyme, with the goal of developing novel drugs to treat chronic HBV infections in the 250 million people worldwide suffering from hepatitis B.

View Publications

Headshot of Ryan Teague, PhD

Ryan Teague, Ph.D.

: University of Kansas
Postdoctoral Fellowship: University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Research Interest: Cancer immunology.  My lab investigates how the immune system detects and responds to cancer with the goal of exploiting these processes for the development of novel immunotherapy approaches. Ongoing projects in the lab are designed to identify barriers to successful cancer immunotherapy and develop strategies to overcome these barriers for improved patient outcomes. The lab performs translational research linking basic science at the bench top to clinical human research through collaborations with scientists and physicians at SLU and other universities around the county.

View Publications