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 |

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.




Seth Bloom |

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.


Amy Dickey |

Amy is a pulmonary and critical care fellow in the MGH/BIDMC combined program who started as a research fellow in the Kwon lab April 2016. She received a BSc in biochemistry from the University of Oklahoma and an MSc in cell biology and MD from Vanderbilt University. After medical school, she moved to Seattle to train in internal medicine at the University of Washington, before coming to Boston for her fellowship. In the Kwon lab, she is studying the airway-specific immune interaction between HIV and TB. Her interest in TB stems from her experiences growing up in China and Taiwan, before moving to the US for college. She enjoys traveling, reading, playing the piano, and warm weather.



Matthew Hayward |

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 |
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 the 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 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 |

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.

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.





Nomfuneko Mafunda |

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 |

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 |

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.



Zoe Rogers |

Zoe joined the Kwon Lab as a Clinical Research Coordinator in May 2016.  With a BSc in International Health from the University of New Hampshire, she worked in various research and clinical settings in Boston and Durban, South Africa where she helped set up an acute HIV cohort and characterize the pharmacokinetics of TB treatment in children to optimize dosing. She most recently worked as a patient advocate in a surgical oncology practice at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In the Kwon lab, she will introduce patients to the mucosal research platform and help launch a new fecal transplant study. Outside the lab, Zoe enjoys woodworking, baking, soccer, bocce, and biking.



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.




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 |

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.