Jigar V. Desai, Ph.D., is an Assistant Member at the Center for Discovery and Innovation.
The long-term goal of the Desai lab is to define organ-specific mechanisms involved in the regulation of innate immune response, with an emphasis on invasive fungal infections. In cancer patients undergoing allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplant, invasive fungal infections are responsible for low overall survival and high non-relapse mortality. Thus, a better understanding of protective host immune mechanisms is necessary for developing personalized risk-stratification strategies, which would allow for early prophylactic intervention and improving outcomes for patients with cancer. His recent findings, supported through a “Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00)” by the NIAID, have uncovered a novel role for the complement system proteins in antifungal host defense. Building upon these, the Desai lab aims to decipher the tissue-specific interplay between complement and fungi and its impact on local and systemic immunity. To this end, the lab utilizes in vivo murine infection/colonization models, genetically engineered mouse/fungal strains, primary-cells/cell lines for in vitro assays, real-time intravital microscopy, and host/pathogen-directed organ-specific transcriptomics combined with other next-generation sequencing methodologies. Through this work, the lab anticipates providing novel insights into organ-specific regulation of antifungal immune response. Furthermore, the lab will elucidate previously uncharacterized mechanisms of complement biology, which holds promise beyond antifungal immunity owing to the critical role of complement proteins in the pathology of diverse cancers and autoimmune diseases.