Dr. Alejandro Villarino’s interest in cytokines began as a Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania, where he first encountered the ‘double-edged’ nature of infection-induced cytokine responses, at once necessary for protective immunity and capable of propagating disease. That dichotomy was the central theme of his dissertation on interleukin-27 (IL-27), a cytokine that was initially classified as pro-inflammatory but which he discovered has critical anti-inflammatory functions that have since been observed in over 30 models of infection and immuno-pathology. Upon transitioning to postdoctoral research at the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Villarino’s focus shifted from infectious to autoimmune disease. He continued to work on cytokines, particularly in the context of the (then) newly minted Th17 T cell subset, and identified a key role for post-transcriptional silencing in limiting pathogenic T cell hyperactivity and cytokine production. Since becoming a research fellow at the NIAMS, he has embraced genomics as a means of interrogating cytokine signaling. His work focuses on cytokines that employ the transcription factor STAT5, the only STAT family member encoded by two genes and the one most intimately linked with the immune system
Building on 15+ years of experience in the field of cytokine biology, Dr. Villarino’s research focuses on cell intrinsic mechanisms for homeostatic, protective and pathogenic cytokine responses. The overarching goal is to define cellular and molecular consequences for cytokine signaling in immune cells and to leverage these insights for the development novel therapeutic strategies while advancing collective understanding of human health and diseases.