Immunobiology & Transplant Science Center

The center works in close collaboration with the clinical programs at the J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center and The Sherrie and Alan Conover Center for Liver Disease & Transplantation to conduct cutting-edge research, facilitate institute-wide collaborations and promote clinical translation of basic lab discoveries. The goal of the center is to develop new and innovative therapies to prevent transplant loss, as well as to treat autoimmune diseases caused by the malfunctioning immune system.

Key areas of research at the Immunobiology & Transplant Science Center include:

Fundamental Immunology

The immune system consists of numerous cell types that appear in two broad categories: innate immune cells and adaptive immune cells. The cells collaborate with each another to ensure immediate elimination of invading pathogens (protection) and at the same time prevent collateral damage to self-tissues and organs (tolerance). The balance between protection and tolerance is delicate and is not achieved at all times. As a result of dysregulated immune responses, people develop devastating autoimmune diseases such as type I diabetes, lupus, colitis, arthritis and multiple sclerosis. The key focus of our research is the discovery of new molecular mechanisms and pathways that control activation and aggression of lymphocytes in the immune system and to determine whether such pathways could be therapeutically manipulated to prevent immune-mediated diseases.

Transplant Biology

Millions of patients worldwide benefit from organ transplants; however, significant challenges are still associated with transplant procedures including severe shortage of organ donors, progressive loss of transplants to chronic rejection over time and life-threatening complications associated with broad, non-specific and chronic immunosuppression. We are investigating transplant-related issues and complications, including mechanisms of graft injury and repair, stem cells and tissue regeneration, transplant rejection, tolerance-compatible immunosuppression, transplant tolerance and diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for rejection or tolerance. Our team develops new protocols to ensure the survival of transplant patients without life-long immunosuppression.


Cell surface molecules and cytokine receptors guide activation of aggressive lymphocytes in the immune system; they collectively control survival and functional attributes of activated lymphocytes. In our program, we identify essential molecular targets that serve as key checkpoints in lymphocyte activities and develop therapeutic antibodies that can target such checkpoints to modulate the immune responses toward the outcomes we desire. As another area of focus, we explore how to use human IgG1 as a backbone to genetically engineer recombinant fusion proteins into new therapeutics; we then use a variety of preclinical disease models to establish the safety and efficacy of such proteins before moving them to clinical studies. We think these strategies hold great potential for improving outcomes in patients with autoimmune diseases, cancer and organ transplants.

Translational Immunology

Diseases caused by malfunctioning immune system — type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, colitis, multiple sclerosis, allergy — are often debilitating. In our bench-to-bedside program, we translate basic lab discoveries to clinical therapies through collaboration with various clinical programs at Houston Methodist. Our scientists conduct patient-centered studies, including various stages of clinical trials, to advance medical therapies for immune-mediated diseases. Our key areas of clinical translation include transplant survival without life-long immunosuppression, prevention of chronic allograft rejection and treatment of various autoimmune diseases.