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.




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

Joe Daccache | jdaccache@mgh.harvard.edu
Joe Daccache received his BS in biochemistry from The Lebanese University, Beirut, Lebanon. He is currently working toward his Master’s degree in Oncology and Cancer Biology at the Claude Bernard University, Lyon France which he will obtain in June 2016. Joe will be applying for a position in the PhD Immunology program at Harvard. Joe likes to stay current by attending seminars. In his spare time Joe likes to keep fit by playing tennis and playing the piano.

Isabella Fraschilla | ifraschilla@partners.org

Xin Kai, Research Fellow | xkai@mgh.harvard.edu
Xin Kai is a Research Fellow in Pillai lab with research interest in the therapeutic and diagnostic targets in signal transduction pathways in hematologic diseases. She joined the Pillai lab first as a 2-year joint Ph.D. student in 2008, and after earning her Ph.D. degree in Biology from Shandong University in China she continued working with Prof. Pillai as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow from 2011. Besides research in the lab, she loves her family very much and especially enjoys playing and reading with her daughter.

Vinay S. Mahajan, M.D. Ph.D | 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.

Hamid Mattoo, Ph.D., Instructor | mattoo.hamid@mgh.harvard.edu
Hamid is an Instructor in Medicine, Assistant in Genetics at the Ragon Institute of MGH, Harvard and MIT. He is an immunologist by training with strong interest in translational research and human immunology. His research has largely focused on the study of lymphocyte development and autoimmunity. He received his PhD from National Institute of Immunology (India). His graduate thesis focused on the biology of T lymphocytes where he studied the effect of aging on T cell fate and functionality. Hamid joined Pillai lab as a Research Fellow in late 2009, with a broad interest in questions related to T cell-B cell interactions in immunity and disease.

Takashi Maehara, D.D.S., Ph.D., Research Fellow | tmaeharat@mgh.harvard.edu
He 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

Ian Rosenberg, Ph.D., Instructor | irosenberg@partners.org
Ian joined the Pillai lab in 2009. Previously he was a member of the GI unit at MGH working on various aspects of inflammatory bowel disease. Currently an Instructor in Medicine, Ian received his BA from Colby College, MSc from the Faculty of Agriculture of the Hebrew University in Rehovot, Israel and PhD from the Weizmann Institute of Science in the department of Membrane Biology. His thesis topic was “Amoebapore: a pore forming protein produced by Entamoeba histolytica” under the mentorship of Carlos Gitler. Among his outside interests are woodworking and Boston sports history.