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 |

Corleis ,Bjorn

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 PhD in 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.


Christina Gosmann |
Christina joined the Kwon Lab as a Research Fellow in May 2014. She received a BSc and MSc in Molecular Biotechnology from Heidelberg University, Germany, and performed her thesis work in Tumor Immunology at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). Having previously tested Australian waters, she crossed the globe to obtain a PhD in Immunology from the University of Queensland, studying immunoregulatory mechanisms in HPV-associated epithelial hyperplasia. Her current research focuses on understanding immune responses to HIV infection in the female genital tract. Outside the lab, Christina enjoys being with family and friends, on the road and in the wild.


Melis Anahtar |
Melis is an MD-PhD student at Harvard Medical School. She received her S.B. in mechanical engineering from MIT, then hopped across the pond to get some thymic education and an MSc in immunology from Oxford University. Even after her years of biomedical training, Grey’s Anatomy never fails to make her tear up. She joined the Kwon Lab in September 2011 and her research focuses on understanding immune responses to viruses and bacteria in the female genital tract.


Crystal Rawlings |
Crystal is a graduate student in Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Harvard Medical School and officially started biking to the Kwon Lab in September 2012.  Prior to moving to Boston, she experimented at the Benaroya Research Institute in her hometown of Seattle and coached swim team in the off hours.  She received her BS from University of Washington, where she studied biology, with a side of chemistry and a generous helping of varsity swimming.   In addition to her continued tendencies toward water, Crystal almost never sits down and can conjure restaurant recommendations at will.


Abby Schiff |
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 rotating in the lab in June 2013, and is working on a project to characterize the immune response in the lung in the setting of HIV-TB coinfection.


 David Gootenburg |


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 |
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.


Jesus Luevano |
Jesus-Mario , aka JM, is a medical student at Harvard Medical School, part of the joint HMS-MIT Health Science and Technology Program. He received his A.B. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Harvard College, where his undergraduate research involved the study of the gut microbiome in the context of genetics and obesity in mouse models. He is originally from the Texas borderlands, and has built up a tolerance to spicy food befitting his home. When not in class or prepping samples in ‘da hood’ he enjoys playing his violin, traveling, or relaxing in the suburbs. His current project will be looking at lumenal shifts in the human gut microbiome in the context of different stages of HIV infection.


Anik Debnath |

Debnath ,Anik
Anik is a joint PhD student in the Harvard-MIT HST program and Harvard’s biophysics program. Previously, he studied physics at Caltech, during which time he worked with Dr. Rob Phillips to build tools for metagenomic data analysis, and use them to characterize the human phageome. He also spent time in Dr. Jack Szostak’s lab at MGH, where he examined amphiphile aggregation dynamics in prebiotic chemical conditions. Currently, Anik is broadly interested in engineering the human microbiome, and as a part of both the Kwon Lab, and George Church’s lab at HMS, he seeks to build bacteria that neutralize HIV. When not doing that, he is likely found playing soccer, laying waste to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant, or plucking incoherently at his guitar.


Antonella Lisanti |

Antonella joined the Kwon Lab as a research technician in November 2013. She received a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Yale University where she worked on induced pluripotent stem cell research as well as public health projects in Uganda, Cameroon, and Ecuador. Antonella took a brief hiatus from science to teach high school with Teach for America before coming to the Kwon Lab. In her spare time, Antonella enjoys volunteering, baking, arts and crafts, and playing with her 600 cats (quote: “Bjorn is super cool!”).


Eric Safai |
Eric joined the Kwon Lab as a research technician July 2014. He received his S.B.’s in Chemical-biological engineering and Biology from MIT. He began his research career in the Doyle Lab, where he investigated hydrogel technology and its application in biomimicry and pharmaceutical technologies. While not in lab, Eric was also a member of the varsity cross country and track & field teams while at MIT. He is also an avid soccer player, and enjoys photography, cooking, and traveling.


Jeffrey Paer |
Jeff joined the Kwon Lab as a technician in 2015 soon after receiving a B.A. in biology from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. He witnessed firsthand the crippling effects of HIV and other infectious diseases while volunteering in a Tanzanian hospital in 2014, and was inspired to study the topic of antibiotic resistance for his Honors Thesis research upon his return stateside. At this point in his early academic career, he dreams of earning an MD-PhD with the ultimate goal of becoming an infectious disease physician and researcher. He is also an avid guitarist and composer, and is especially interested in jazz and improvisation. In addition to biology and music, he enjoys playing soccer, hiking, and traveling.

Mara Farcasanu |


Mara joined the Kwon lab as a research technician in July 2015. She received a B.S. in the Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago where she applied synthetic antibody engineering technology to design pathogen-specific therapeutic agents, focusing on anthrax toxins. Mara spends much of her spare time outdoors on walks, hikes, and other mini adventures but also loves a good zumba class and is an ardent follower of the Daily Show.
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