Douglas S. Kwon, M.D. Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Lab Info:

Principal Investigator: Douglas S. Kwon, M.D. Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Lab Staff: 3 postdoctoral fellows, 3 M.D. Ph.D. students, 3 Ph.D. student, 1 medical student, 3 technicians, 1 undergraduate student, 1 administrative assistant

Office/Location: 400 Technology Square, Suite 892

Phone: (857) 268-7009


Category: Group Leaders, Members

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The focus of the Kwon lab is the application of new technologies to the study of immune responses against HIV at mucosal surfaces.


Mucosal surfaces represent both the primary site of HIV transmission and the largest reservoir of viral replication. Despite this, the immune response to HIV has largely been studied in the peripheral blood, which contains just 2-3% of all lymphocytes- a small minority relative to the 60-90% of the body’s T and B cells that reside at mucosal sites. One of the greatest barriers to a more detailed understanding of these responses is the inherently small amount of material that can be obtained from mucosal sampling. We are therefore employing new technologies, such as next generation sequencing and those developed in conjunction with our collaborators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to simultaneously capture multiple measures of viral, metagenomic, and adaptive immune factors important for HIV immunity and pathogenesis. Using these methodologies we have begun to map mucosal immune responses in gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and the female reproductive tract at a level of resolution that has not been possible employing standard assays. We are also determining the mechanism by which HIV impairs mucosal immune responses in the lung which then result in greater susceptibility to tuberculosis infection. This work is being performed using the large, well characterized patient cohorts available at the Ragon Institute to better understand resistance to HIV acquisition and spontaneous control of chronic HIV infection. We also perform a significant amount of work in Africa in collaboration with the University of KwaZulu Natal HIV Pathogenesis Program, KRITH, CAPRISA, FRESH, and the University of Cape Town, to better understanding the HIV epidemic in the developing world.


Dr. Douglas Kwon is a physician scientist at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard and Director of Clinical Operations at the Ragon Institute. He has a clinical practice in the division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. He received his M.D. Ph.D. degrees from New York University and then underwent Internal Medicine training at the University of California, San Francisco and New York Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He then completed his training in the combined Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital Infectious Disease fellowship program.


Present Areas of Investigation

  • Employing novel technologies to further our understanding of mucosal immune responses in gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and the female reproductive tract
  • Determining viral dynamics in mucosal and peripheral compartments in chronic HIV infection
  • Characterizing the mechanism by which HIV impairs mucosal lung responses against TB
  • Assessing the effects of the microbiome on mucosal immune responses in controlled versus chronic HIV infection


Lab Members

Björn Corleis | Senior Research Scientist |

Björn is a Research Fellow at the Ragon Institute with an interest in mucosal immunology and HIV/TB co-infection. He received his Master in Immunology from the University of Freiburg (Germany) and finished his master studies at the University of Cambridge (UK) with a project on B cell development and British pubs. He obtained a Infectious Diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine working on the Interaction of human neutrophils and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (quote: “Neutrophils are super cool!”). Bjorn grew up in Northern Germany and has educated the Kwon Lab in soccer and the famous German pirate Stortebecker since January 2012.



Maud Deruaz | Instructor in Immunology |

Maud is an Instructor in Immunology who joined the Kwon lab in October 2018. She obtained her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, during which she identified and characterized chemokine binding proteins from tick saliva. She then moved to Boston to pursue her interest in learning immunology from the perspective of pathogens. During her postdoc in the laboratory of Prof. Luster at MGH, she focused on the role of lymphocytes trafficking in HIV dissemination following intravaginal exposure in humanized mice. She is now poised to utilize this model to look at the role of microbiota in HIV intravaginal acquisition. Outside the lab, Maud enjoys spending time with her family, baking and embracing Boston’s cult of running.



Seth Bloom | Postdoctoral Fellow |

Seth joined the Kwon Lab in July 2016. He is an Infectious Diseases fellow in the combined Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham & Women’s Hospital program. He earned a BA in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2004, performing his undergraduate thesis work on influenza virus. Seth stayed at Washington University for his MD/PhD training and Internal Medicine residency, focusing his research on the role of commensal intestinal bacteria in a mouse model of inflammatory bowel disease. In the Kwon lab, his current work involves understanding interactions between bacterial microbiota and mucosal lymphocytes in the female genital tract, with a focus on how these interactions may influence risk of primary HIV infection. Outside of the lab, Seth enjoys running, hiking, spending time with family, and international travel.


Matthew Hayward | Postdoctoral Fellow |

Matt proudly joined the Kwon lab as a Research Fellow in October 2017 to investigate the interplay between commensal microbes and tissues of the vagina in relation to HIV acquisition. From studying enteric pathogen, Salmonella enterica for his PhD, to elucidating the role of microbial communities in human health and disease for his first postdoc, Matt has maintained a focus on the microscopic. With extensive experience in both the wet-lab and dry-lab environments he has developed both pipetter’s shoulder and programmer’s slouch. In 2015, Matt was the lucky recipient of a Marie Curie Fellowship to pursue a project at EMBL Heidelberg with Prof Peer Bork on the relationship between the commensal microbes of the human gastrointestinal tract and colorectal cancer development. In his free time Matt can be found either pumping iron in the gym or with his nose stuck in a musty old book.


Crystal Rawlings | Postdoctoral Fellow |
Crystal is a postdoctoral fellow who joined the Kwon Lab in 2012 and received her Ph.D. in 2018 from the Harvard Biological & Biomedical Sciences program. Her thesis encompassed the investigation of HIV-1-associated alterations in the metabolism of vitamin A by human intestinal dendritic cells, as well as the effect of therapeutic retinoic acid supplementation on disease progression in HIV-1-infected individuals. She continues in the lab as a Research Fellow, moving her work toward publication and while maintaining her role as lab birthday celebration coordinator. Prior to moving to Boston, she worked as a technician and lab manager at the Benaroya Research Institute in her hometown of Seattle, WA. Crystal earned her BS in Biology and minor in Chemistry from the University of Washington while competing in Division I swimming. Outside of the lab, she now expends excess energy on her road bike with the Harvard University Cycling Association and maintains an open-access repository of gastronomic recommendations.


Upasana Das Adhikari | Postdoctoral Fellow |

Upasana joined the Kwon Lab as a postdoctoral fellow in December 2018. Before moving to Boston, she was a Signgene Fellow doing her Ph.D. in a collaborative project between the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Max Delbruck Centre of Molecular Medicine in Berlin. During her Ph.D., she studied the gut epithelial stem cell regeneration addressing the crosstalk between reserve and active stem cells. This led her to become fascinated by the three amigos of the gut: the epithelium, Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue, and the microbiome. In the Kwon Lab, Upasana will study the cause of the misbalance of these interactions during HIV progression to halt the viral replication in the gut reservoir. In her free time, she loves to dance salsa and bachata!



Muntsa Rocafort | Postdoctoral Fellow |

Muntsa joined the Kwon Lab as a postdoctoral fellow in February 2019. She finished her Ph.D. in Microbiology at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in 2018 working on the gut microbiome and HIV-1 infection at the AIDS Research Institute IrsiCaixa in Barcelona (Catalonia). Before that, she did an MsC in AIDS Treatment and Pathogenesis and an MsC in Bioinformatics. After spending almost all of her Ph.D. sitting in front of the computer, Muntsa joined the Kwon Lab ready to focus on wet lab work. Her aim is to decipher the role of phages on the changes occurring in the gut microbiome during HIV-1 infection. In her free time, she loves drawing, reading thrillers and cuddling around with her 2 cats.


Jiawu Xu | Lab Manager |

Jiawu had the honor of joining the Kwon Lab in May 2018. He is a research scientist working on microbes in the gut and female genital tract, and their interactions with HIV/AIDS. As the lab manager, he enjoys helping the lab run smoothly and efficiently and providing support and encouragement to the hard-working Kwonnies each day. Prior to joining the Kwon Lab, Jiawu conducted research on population genetics, molecular ecology and evolution at Brigham Young University and Rutgers University, and on human microbiome and metagenomics at The University of Oklahoma. Jiawu received his PhD in biology from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, with a major in genetics and molecular evolution. He likes to do research in genetics, genomics and microbiome in relation to human health and diseases.


Abby Schiff | Graduate Student |
Abby is an MD-PhD student at Harvard Medical School. She received her A.B. in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard College, and then worked at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York for a year on broadly neutralizing antibodies for HIV before starting back up again at Harvard. She is from Brookline, MA and is a true local. She loves singing, activism, and traveling, and you can ask her about her year studying art history in Paris. She started in the lab in June 2014, and is working on a project to characterize the immune response in the lung in the setting of HIV-TB coinfection.



 David Gootenburg | Graduate Student |

David is an MD-PhD student at Harvard Medical School in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program. He received his A.B. in Chemical and Physical Biology from Harvard College. As an undergraduate, David worked in Peter Turnbaugh’s lab at the FAS Center for Systems Biology studying the interactions between diet, xenobiotics, and the gut microbiota. After graduating, he continued working in the Turnbaugh lab for a year and is proud to note that he is a “published poop researcher.” If you ask him, he will assure you that it is just as glamorous as it sounds. David joined the Kwon Lab in January 2014 and is interested in the interaction between the immune system, gut epithelium, and gut microbial community, and how this relationship changes during HIV infection and across different geographic locations.


Meaghan Flagg | Graduate Student |

Meg received her B.A. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2013. She completed her undergraduate thesis work in the laboratory of Dr. Rui Yi, focusing on micro RNA regulation of stress responses, including viral infection, in mouse epidermis. She then entered the Ph.D Program in Virology at Harvard University, where she joined the Kwon lab in the summer of 2014. She is interested in the role of epithelial cells during the immune response against HIV at mucosal surfaces.


Nomfuneko Mafunda | Research Technician |

Nomfuneko is a research technician in the Kwon Lab. She graduated from Smith College in 2017 with an A.B. in Chemistry. She is from Botswana. On her free time you can catch her cooking, at the gym or watching her favorite show, Grey’s Anatomy. She joined the Kwon Lab in October 2017.





Alice Linder | Research Technician |

Alice joined the Kwon Lab as a Research Technician in June 2017 after graduating from Harvard College with an A.B. in Integrative Biology. She is originally from Corrales, NM and likes to spend her spare time listening to podcasts, wandering the Emerald Necklace, or heading north to hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She hopes ultimately to pursue an MD, focusing on Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease. Within the lab, she works with the lab’s lung group.




Timothy Musoke | Research Technician

Timothy joined the Kwon lab as a technician in July 2017. He graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he completed his undergraduate thesis work in the laboratory of Dr. Alexey Veraksa, studying the regulation of cell signaling pathways in fruit flies. He grew up in Kampala, Uganda, and moved to the US to pursue his undergraduate studies. He also spent time working in the laboratories of various hospitals while in Uganda. He enjoys soccer, reading novels, and learning new languages.




Juliet Bramante | Research Technician |

Juliet is a research technician in the Kwon Lab. She graduated from Harvard University in May 2018 with an A.B. in Integrative Biology and joined the lab the following September. She is from Kasilof, Alaska and enjoys fun animal facts and doodling.






Josephine Frempong | Research Technician |

Josephine joined the Kwon lab as a research technician in August 2018 after receiving her B.S. in Chemistry from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Prior to joining the lab, she did her undergraduate research work in an organometallic chemistry lab investigating different linkers to connect peptides to a ferrocene- tungsten complex in an attempt to synthesize beta sheet mimetics similar to beta amyloid proteins found in the brains of patients with Alzheimers. Originally born in Ghana, Josephine loves to dance, travel to new places, and try new food. She can also just as easily be found day-dreaming about her next snack.



Candace Gregg, Staff Assistant |

Candace joined the Kwon Lab as Staff Assistant in July 2017. Prior to working with the lab, she studied cultural anthropology at UCLA and worked with the 5 Gyres Institute, an environmental non-profit focused on the crisis of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Originally from the Rocky Mountains, Candace loves to explore New England by car, bike and foot, and can often be found reading a good book or baking the world’s most delicious chocolate chip cookies.