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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-Thermo Fisher Trainee Achievement Award
American Association of Immunologists (AAI)
Future of Science Fund Scholarship
Keystone Symposia
AAI Trainee Poster Award
American Association of Immunologists (AAI)
Best Poster Award
Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS) Center of Excellence
Travel Award
Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS) Center of Excellence
University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Postdoc Slam 2017
Travel Award
American Association of Immunologists (AAI)

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.

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  1. Gershteyn IM, Burov AA, Miao BY, Morais VH, Ferreira LMR. Immunodietica: interrogating the role of diet in autoimmune disease. Int Immunol. 2020 Aug 18. View in PubMed
  2. Ferreira LMR, Mostajo-Radji MA. Plasma-based COVID-19 treatments in low- and middle-income nations pose a high risk of an HIV epidemic. NPJ Vaccines. 2020; 5:58. View in PubMed
  3. Ferreira LMR, Li AM, Serafim TL, Sobral MC, Alpoim MC, Urbano AM. Intermediary metabolism: An intricate network at the crossroads of cell fate and function. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2020 Oct 01; 1866(10):165887. View in PubMed
  4. Yu H, Rimbert A, Palmer AE, Toyohara T, Xia Y, Xia F, Ferreira LMR, Chen Z, Chen T, Loaiza N, Horwitz NB, Kacergis MC, Zhao L, Soukas AA, Kuivenhoven JA, Kathiresan S, Cowan CA. GPR146 Deficiency Protects against Hypercholesterolemia and Atherosclerosis. Cell. 2019 11 27; 179(6):1276-1288.e14. View in PubMed
  5. Abreu, P.L.; Ferreira, L.M.R.; Cunha-Oliveira, T.; Alpoim M.C. A. M. Urbano. Heat Shock Protein 90 in Human Diseases and Disorders. HSP90: A Key Player in Metal-Induced Carcinogenesis?. 2019; 217-247. View in PubMed
  6. View All Publications
  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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