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Tang Lab »  People »  Postdoctoral Fellows »  Leonardo M.R. Ferreira, Ph.D.

Leonardo M.R. Ferreira, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Scholar
Molecular Immunologist and Human Genome Engineer
Tang and Bluestone Labs

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  • Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ph.D., Biochemistry, 2016
  • Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, A.M., Biology, 2013
  • University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal, B.Sc., Biochemistry, 2011
  • Tang Lab, Department of Surgery. 2016 -
  • Bluestone Lab, UCSF Diabetes Center, 2016 -
  • Immune tolerance

Leonardo M.R. Ferreira, Ph.D. is a molecular immunologist and human genome engineer in the laboratories of Dr. Qizhi Tang (Department of Surgery) and Dr. Jeffrey Bluestone (Diabetes Center) at UCSF.  

Dr. Ferreira has a B.Sc. in biochemistry from the University of Coimbra, Portugal, and received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Harvard University in 2016. During his doctoral studies, under the supervision of Dr. Jack Strominger and Dr. Chad Cowan at Harvard's Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, he focused on studying immune tolerance using pregnancy as a model, as well as on developing new tools to edit the genome of primary human T cells.

Currently, Dr. Ferreira is working to develop the next generation of chimeric antigen receptors for regulatory T cell therapy, aiming to establish tolerance in the contexts of autoimmune disease and transplant rejection.

  • AAI Trainee Poster Award, American Association of Immunologists (AAI), 2018
  • Future of Science Fund Scholarship, Keystone Symposia, 2018
  • Best Poster Award, Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS) Center of Excellence, 2017
  • Travel Award, Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS) Center of Excellence, 2017
  • Finalist, University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Postdoc Slam 2017, 2017
  • Travel Award, American Association of Immunologists (AAI), 2015

The adaptive immune system has evolved to specifically recognize and destroy a virtually infinite variety of pathogens, while remaining unresponsive towards self-tissues, a state known as immune tolerance. T cell-based antigen-specific immune tolerance was first postulated in 1970. Yet, it was not until the 1990s that the identity of the cell type responsible for this phenomenon was firmly established: regulatory T cells (Tregs).

Manipulating human Tregs offers the unprecedented opportunity to induce tolerance in a clinical setting, potentially providing cures for autoimmune disease and transplant rejection. However, vanishingly low numbers of antigen-specific Tregs and Treg instability upon prolonged expansion have hampered the implementation of Treg-based therapies.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology has greatly expedited the generation of tumor antigen-specific effector T (Teff) cells. CARs are synthetic receptors comprising an extracellular antigen-binding domain and an intracellular signaling domain that allow for potent T cell activation directly downstream of antigen recognition.

Adoption of the CAR platform for Treg engineering represents a promising strategy to generate custom-made antigen-specific Tregs for therapy. Yet, there are marked differences in signaling and function between Tregs and Teff cells. My goal is to design the next generation of CARs for Treg therapy, aiming to establish tolerance in the contexts of autoimmune disease and transplant rejection.

Most recent publications from a total of 19
  1. Ferreira, L.M.R., Carosso, G.A., Duran, N.M., Bohorquez-Massud, S.V., Vaca-Diez, G., Rivera-Betancourt, L.I., Rodriguez, Y., Ordonez, D.G., Alatriste-Gonzalez, D.K., Vacaflores, A., Auza, L.G., Schuetz, C., Alvarado-Arnez, L.E., Alexander-Savino, C.V., Gandarilla, O., Mostajo-Radji, M.A.. Effective participatory science education in a diverse Latin American population. Palgrave Communications. 2019; 5:63. View in PubMed
  2. Gershteyn, I.M., Ferreira, L.M.R.. Immunodietica: A data-driven approach to investigate interactions between diet and autoimmune disorders. Journal of Translational Autoimmunity. 2019; 1:100003. View in PubMed
  3. Han X, Wang M, Duan S, Franco PJ, Kenty JH, Hedrick P, Xia Y, Allen A, Ferreira LMR, Strominger JL, Melton DA, Meissner TB, Cowan CA. Generation of hypoimmunogenic human pluripotent stem cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Apr 30. View in PubMed
  4. Abreu PL, Cunha-Oliveira T, Ferreira LMR, Urbano AM. Hexavalent chromium, a lung carcinogen, confers resistance to thermal stress and interferes with heat shock protein expression in human bronchial epithelial cells. Biometals. 2018 08; 31(4):477-487. View in PubMed
  5. Tilburgs T, Meissner TB, Ferreira LMR, Mulder A, Musunuru K, Ye J, Strominger JL. NLRP2 is a suppressor of NF-?B signaling and HLA-C expression in human trophoblasts†,‡. Biol Reprod. 2017 Apr 01; 96(4):831-842. View in PubMed
  6. Ferreira LMR, Meissner TB, Tilburgs T, Strominger JL. HLA-G: At the Interface of Maternal-Fetal Tolerance. Trends Immunol. 2017 04; 38(4):272-286. View in PubMed
  7. Ferreira LM, Tang Q. Generating Antigen-Specific Regulatory T Cells in the Fast Lane. Am J Transplant. 2017 Apr; 17(4):851-853. View in PubMed
  8. Ferreira LM, Meissner TB, Mikkelsen TS, Mallard W, O'Donnell CW, Tilburgs T, Gomes HA, Camahort R, Sherwood RI, Gifford DK, Rinn JL, Cowan CA, Strominger JL. A distant trophoblast-specific enhancer controls HLA-G expression at the maternal-fetal interface. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 May 10; 113(19):5364-9. View in PubMed
  9. Mandal PK, Ferreira LM, Collins R, Meissner TB, Boutwell CL, Friesen M, Vrbanac V, Garrison BS, Stortchevoi A, Bryder D, Musunuru K, Brand H, Tager AM, Allen TM, Talkowski ME, Rossi DJ, Cowan CA. Efficient ablation of genes in human hematopoietic stem and effector cells using CRISPR/Cas9. Cell Stem Cell. 2014 Nov 06; 15(5):643-52. View in PubMed
  10. Abreu PL, Ferreira LM, Alpoim MC, Urbano AM. Impact of hexavalent chromium on mammalian cell bioenergetics: phenotypic changes, molecular basis and potential relevance to chromate-induced lung cancer. Biometals. 2014 Jun; 27(3):409-43. View in PubMed
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  1. Ferreira LMR, Bluestone JA, Tang Q. Designing the next generation of chimeric antigen receptors for regulatory T cell therapy. Oral presentation, Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS), Chicago, Illinois, 2017, (Best Poster Award; FOCIS Travel Award)
  2. Ferreira LMR, Meissner TB, Mikkelsen T, O'Donnell C, Sherwood R, Mallard W, Rinn J, Cowan, CA, Strominger JL. Long-range chromatin interactions control trophoblast-restricted HLA-G expression during pregnancy. Oral presentation, American Association of Immunologists (AAI), New Orleans, Louisiana, 2015 (AAI Travel Award)

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