Priming the immune system to fight cancer by immune checkpoint blockade has revolutionised cancer therapy and achieved durable clinical responses. Despite the success of targeting the PD1-PDL1 axis or CTLA4 to release the breaks on T cells that can elicit an anti-tumour effect, the response across cancer types and patients has not been uniform. One of the reasons, is the heterogenous immune evasion mechanisms displayed by the tumour. With over forty immune checkpoints identified, there is much still to understand regarding the underlying biological phenomena of these proteins. Insights into the regulation of expression of such checkpoints can aid in developing rational immunotherapeutic strategies. Hence, by combining the immune oncology expertise from Professor Van Den Eynde’s lab and the CellSeq platform, a whole genome-haploid genetic screening approach coupled with FACS-based protein abundance readouts set up in Professor Sebastian Nijman’s lab, I aim to generate regulatory maps for less well understood immune checkpoints and identify novel drug targets.
I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology at SRM University, India, in 2015. During this time, I received a semester abroad scholarship to carry out my final year thesis at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Harvard Medical School. Following my graduation from SRM University, I joined the Laboratory of Nanomedicine, BWH, Harvard Medical School as a research assistant for one year. During this time, I gained expertise in the fields of cancer biology, immunotherapy and nanomedicine. Here, I engineered a supramolecular therapeutic that specifically modulates innate immunity via macrophage reprogramming and facilitates an anti-cancer effect. The prospect of harnessing our body's potential by using a bioengineered platform to combat cancer excited me. I studied the modulation of macrophages in the tumour landscape in response to the supramolecular therapeutics using an array of co-culture experiments, flow cytometry and immunophenotyping, gene and protein analysis, and in vivo models over the course of my internship and my subsequent research assistantship. After returning to India, I worked in Invictus Oncology as an associate scientist in 2016 to investigate the underlying mechanism of action of the company’s pipeline novel anti-cancer drug with particular emphasis on tumour immunology. Following this, driven to further explore the immune oncology space, I received the NDM prize studentship and the CRUK prize studentship to carry out my DPhil Studies in Clinical Medicine in Professor Van Den Eynde and Professor Nijman’s labs.