Shiv Pillai, MD, PhD

Lab Info:

Principal Investigator: Shiv Pillai, MD, PhD

Office/Location: 400TS 894

Phone: (857) 268-7005

Email: pillai@helix.mgh.harvard.edu

Category: Group Leaders, Members

Shiv Pillai MD, PhD is a Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard Medical School. He is the Program Director of an NIH Funded Autoimmune Center of Excellence at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Director of the Masters in Medical Sciences in Immunology Program at Harvard Medical School.


Dr. Pillai coined the term “surrogate light chains” for proteins that he identified (with David Baltimore), as part of a novel receptor, now known as the pre-B receptor,  that drives early B cell development. His laboratory at MGH postulated and provided evidence for the first ligand-independent signaling model during lymphocyte development, now a widely accepted mechanism for both pre-B receptor and pre-T receptor signaling. His laboratory also showed that Btk, the product of the gene mutated in X-linked agammaglobulinemia, is functionally linked to the pre-B receptor and the B cell receptor. His group defined a functional niche for B cells (around sinusoids in the bone marrow), identified the first two mutants that abrogate marginal zone B lymphocyte development, developed the concept of a follicular versus marginal zone B lymphoid cell-fate decision, and discovered two new defined stages of peripheral B cell development, the marginal zone precursor (MZP) B cell, and the Follicular type II B cell.


The laboratory currently pursues three main directions:


The immunological and epigenetic mechanisms underlying chronic inflammatory diseases
The group examines pathogenic mechanisms that are of importance in lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, sarcoidosis, inflammatory bowel disease and IgG4-related disease. This work has led to the detailed study of the development of human CD4+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes and their function in the context of chronic inflammation and the containment of HIV.


The molecular basis for self-renewal and memory in the immune system
An important current direction is the role of DNA methylation in the self-renewal of B-1 B cells, of CD8+ memory T cells and the relevance of DNA methylation to autoimmunity and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.


O-acetylation of sialic acid and the regulation of immune signal strength
One area of interest from both a biochemical and immunological perspective is a pathway involving a sialic acid acetyl transferase, a sialic acid acetyl esterase and their potential role in regulating inhibitory receptors called Siglecs. The role of these and related genes in controlling the strength of immune responses is currently being explored.


Dr. Pillai is the co-author of two widely used textbooks of immunology and is the course director of immunology courses at Harvard Medical School, Harvard College and for the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies.


Click here to view a recent lecture series in which Dr. Pillai discusses some of the fundamental questions in immunology.




Vinay S. Mahajan, M.D. Ph.D, Instructor | Vinay.Mahajan@mgh.harvard.edu
Vinay received his medical degree from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi and did his graduate work at the MIT Department of Biological Engineering. He did his residency training in Clinical Pathology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he is now an Instructor of Pathology. He has been a part of the Pillai group since 2011 and is keen on applying his knowledge and skills to problems in human translational immunology. He likes wildlife, and enjoys birding and growing orchids.


Takashi Maehara, D.D.S., Ph.D., Research Fellow | tmaeharat@mgh.harvard.edu
Takashi joined the Pillai lab in 2014. Trained as a dentist, he received his DDS from Kyushu University in Fukuoka Japan in 2007 and his PhD in 2012. He has worked as an oral surgeon for 8 years in Japan. His thesis topic was the immunobiology of Sjogren’s disease. These studies led to postdoctoral research on IgG4 related disease. Currently he is working on the involvement of macrophages and innate lymphoid cells in IgG4 related disease. Outsideof the lab, Takashi enjoys being with his family and friends. In his free time he likes to travel, swim and play with his two daughters. Please talk to him any time and check his facebook.


Cory Perugino | cperugiono@partners.org
Cory is an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and practicing rheumatologist in the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Originally from northern New Jersey, Cory completed his internal medicine training at the Cleveland Clinic followed by his rheumatology fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. He has been a post-doctorate fellow in the Pillai lab since July of 2015. His primary research focuses on the mechanism of IgG4-related disease and in particular, the antigens driving the disease. Every moment he’s not in the hospital or at the bench, he spends with his wife, Jessie, 2-year-old son, Jack and 6-month-old son, Theo. He enjoys smoky scotches, espresso, cooking, and playing some blues or jazz on the upright bass in the few minutes of time he has to himself.


Grace Yuen, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow | gjyuen@mgh.harvard.edu
Grace joined the Pillai lab in 2016 as a Research Fellow, with interests in transcriptional programs regulating T follicular helper cell function and the immune system at large. She received her Ph.D. in immunology at Harvard and S.B. in biology at MIT. Her graduate thesis focused on the genetic regulation of innate immunity in C. elegans. Outside the lab, Grace enjoys amateur entomology, practicing Tae Kwon Do, running, and playing the flute.


Faisal Alsufyani, Postdoctoral Fellow | falsufyani@mgh.harvard.edu


Hugues Allard-Chamard, M.D., Ph.D, Postdoctoral Fellow | allard-chamard@mgh.harvard.edu
Hugues Allard-Chamard earned his medical degree in adult rheumatology as well as his Ph.D. in pharmacology in Canada from the University of Sherbrooke. His Ph.D. thesis topic was the implication of prostanoids and phospholipases A2 in the biology of osteoclasts. During his residency training, he extended his interest to the clinical aspect of bone pathologies as well as ocular manifestations of rheumatic diseases and uveitis. He then joined the lab of Dr. Pillai in 2016 with a broad interest in the understanding of autoimmunity and its triggers with a special focus on epigenetics. His current work in the lab focuses on the discovery of biomarkers to predict IgG4 related disease response to treatment, and unraveling the early immune dysfunction that triggers MRL/lpr mice to develop Lupus. Hugues came to the United States with his beloved tree cats. Outside of the lab, Hugues appreciates art, music, and never misses new exhibitions in the various Boston museums. He is a strong advocate for museum bonding experiences as a lab.


Emanuel Della Torre, Postdoctoral Fellow | edellatorre@mgh.harvard.edu
Emanuel received his Medical Degree and Board Certification in Allergy and Clinical Immunology at San Raffaele University in Milan, Italy. In 2013, during his residency, he joined Shiv Pillai’s Lab and the Rheumatology Clinic of MGH for a one-year clinical-research fellowship working on IgG4-Related Disease. In 2014 he went back to San Raffaele University where he started a 3 years Ph.D. program in Basic and Applied Immunology. As part of his Ph.D., he is currently addressing the potential role of B cells in the development of fibrosis in IgG4-Related Disease. Before having a lovely daughter, playing soccer and piano were his priorities besides clinical and research activity.


Jocelyn Farmer, M.D. Ph.D, Postdoctoral Fellow | jfarmer@partners.org 
Jocelyn Farmer earned her MD/PhD degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor before moving to Boston in 2013 to pursue residency training in the Department of Internal Medicine followed by fellowship training in the Department of Allergy and Immunology at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She joined the Pillai lab as a post-doctoral research fellow in 2016 and continues to enjoy her work both treating patients with primary immunodeficiency in the clinic and studying the bridging gap between human primary immunodeficiency disorders and the development of autoimmune disease pathology in the lab.


Shubha Parampally, Visiting Researcher | sparampally@mgh.harvard.edu


Na Sun, Bioinformatician | nsun2@mgh.harvard.edu
Na joined the Pillai lab as a bioinformatics specialist since May 2017. She received her Master degree from Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2013, and worked as a research associate at CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. She mainly focused on high-throughput sequencing data analysis using computational approaches. Besides research in the lab, she likes to read books and play with her daughter.


Ezana Demissie, Graduate Student | edemissie@mgh.harvard.edu


Marshall Karpel, Graduate Student | mkarpel@mgh.harvard.edu
Marshall received his BS in Biochemistry from Bates College, then moved to Boston and worked on developing chimeric proteins for filovirus infections with Dr. Ian Michelow, therapeutic nanoparticles with Dr. Bob Langer, and humanized mouse models with Dr. Todd Allen. Marshall joined the Virology program at Harvard Medical School in 2015, and the Pillai Lab in 2016, where he is studying the determinants of B cell memory longevity and the contribution of B cell tolerance in HIV vaccine development. He likes gardening and building functional lab equipment out of legos.


Yesim Tuncay, Research Technician | ytuncay@mgh.harvard.edu
Yesim joined the Pillai lab in 2016 as a Research Technician. Growing up in Turkey, she crossed the globe to get her BS in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Washington, Seattle. During her undergraduate years, she did research on CAR T cells at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Her current research focuses on the differentiation of the early B cells. Outside of lab, she enjoys cooking, taking pictures, discovering new coffee shops and hiking.


Maimuna Ahmad, Research Technician | msahmad@mgh.harvard.edu


Sam Murphy, Research Technician | smurphy40@mgh.harvard.edu


Candace Gregg, Staff Assistant | cgregg@mgh.harvard.edu