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Stephen Vincent Desiderio, M.D., P.h.D.

Director, Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences
Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics

Male

Titles

  • Director, Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences
  • Director, Immunobiology Program, Institute for Cell Engineering
  • Director, Immunology, Translational Science Intersessions
  • Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics

Centers & Institutes

Departments

  • Molecular Biology and Genetics

Contact for Research Inquiries

Phone: 443-955-4735

Research Interests

Immunoglobulin and T-cell receptor gene assembly; Mechanisms of development in the immune system; Molecular mechanisms of lymphocyte differentiation and activation

Biography

Dr. Stephen Desiderio is a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research focuses on the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying immune system development. Dr. Desiderio serves as the director of the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, director of the immunobiology program at the Institute of Cell Engineering (ICE), and course director of immunology for the School of Medicine.

Dr. Desiderio’s research team has contributed significantly to our understanding of how immunity develops in health and disease. Their studies have shed light on the relationship between genetic rearrangement—the process by which immune diversity is generated—and the development of leukemia. They''ve discovered key elements of the triggers that turn on immune responses, and most recently have focused on the signals that instruct stem cells to become cells of the immune system.

Dr. Desiderio received his undergraduate degree in biology and Russian from Haverford College. He earned his Ph.D. and M.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Desiderio joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1984.

From 1984 to 2004, Dr. Desiderio was an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. From 1992 to 1999, he was director of the M.D.-Ph.D. program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Dr. Desiderio is a member of several professional societies, including the Association of American Physicians and the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Molecular Medicine. In 2007, the governor appointed him to the Maryland Life Sciences Advisory Board in 2007. In 2013, he was elected as a member in the Association of American Physicians.

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Featured Video

Stephen Desiderio - How Making Antibodies is Like a Slot Machine

Dr. Stephen Desiderio describes how the human body can make more than a billion different antibodies, despite having only a few billion letters of DNA code in its entire genome.

More Videos

    Additional Information

  • Education +
    • M.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Maryland) (1981)
    • Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Maryland) (1981)

    Additional Training

    • B.A., Haverford College, Haverford, PA, 1974, Biology and Russian
    • Fellowship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 1984
  • Research & Publications +

    Research Summary

    Dr. Desiderio's research focuses on the molecular and genetic mechanisms responsible for development of the immune system. His research has shed light on how the immune system is able to respond to a spectacularly diverse set of invaders. His team’s studies have helped explain the relationship between genetic rearrangement—the process by which immune diversity is generated—and the development of leukemia.

    The team has also discovered key elements of the triggers that turn on immune responses, and most recently has turned its attention to signals that instruct stem cells to become cells of the immune system.

    Lab:

    The Desiderio lab is interested in the molecular and genetic mechanisms responsible for development of the immune system. Among the most spectacular examples of genomic plasticity are the processes that generate immunologic diversity, including V(D)J recombination. V(D)J recombination, which builds antigen receptor genes from discrete gene segments, shares mechanistic features with transposition and, as a potential source of DNA damage, is subject to tight control. One control mechanism, identified in this laboratory, restricts V(D)J recombination to a specific time in cell cycle through the periodic destruction of the V(D)J recombinase. Using a combination of genetics and biochemistry, our group has defined this process in detail. By constructing specific knock-in mutant mice, we have gone on to show that this mechanism protects against the development of lymphoid cancers and their associated chromosomal translocations. More recently, we have begun to study how V(D)J recombination is controlled at the level of chromatin modification, which may govern accessibility of particular loci to the recombinase.

    A related interest is how immune cells respond to environmental cues. Activation of immune cells requires a balance between benefit and risk, and is tightly regulated. Some signals activate immune cells while others block responsiveness—a process called anergy. These signaling mechanisms share common features, including activation of kinases, mobilization of calcium and combinatorial regulation of transcription. We have recently uncovered a novel way in which calcium is regulated in response to antigen receptor stimulation and are now testing whether this mechanism contributes to the decision between activation and anergy.

    Selected Publications View all on PubMed

    1. Halper-Stromberg E, Steranka J, Giraldo-Castillo N, Fuller T, Desiderio S, Burns KH. "Fine mapping of V(D)J recombinase mediated rearrangements in human lymphoid malignancies." BMC Genomics. 2013 Aug 19;14:565. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-14-565
    2. Rybanska-Spaeder I, Reynolds TL, Chou J, Prakash M, Jefferson T, Huso DL, Desiderio S, Franco S. "53BP1 is limiting for NHEJ repair in ATM-deficient model systems that are subjected to oncogenic stress or radiation." Mol Cancer Res. 2013 Oct;11(10):1223-34. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-13-0252-T. Epub 2013 Jul 15.
    3. Lee J, Baldwin WM 3rd, Lee CY, Desiderio S. "Stat3β mitigates development of atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice." J Mol Med (Berl). 2013 Aug;91(8):965-76. doi: 10.1007/s00109-013-1013-5. Epub 2013 Apr 26.
    4. Newman RH, Hu J, Rho HS, Xie Z, Woodard C, Neiswinger J, Cooper C, Shirley M, Clark HM, Hu S, Hwang W, Jeong JS, Wu G, Lin J, Gao X, Ni Q, Goel R, Xia S, Ji H, Dalby KN, Birnbaum MJ, Cole PA, Knapp S, Ryazanov AG, Zack DJ, Blackshaw S, Pawson T, Gingras AC, Desiderio S, Pandey A, Turk BE, Zhang J, Zhu H, Qian J. "Construction of human activity-based phosphorylation networks." Mol Syst Biol. 2013;9:655. doi: 10.1038/msb.2013.12.
    5. Thapa P, Das J, McWilliams D, Shapiro M, Sundsbak R, Nelson-Holte M, Tangen S, Anderson J, Desiderio S, Hiebert S, Sant'angelo DB, Shapiro VS. "The transcriptional repressor NKAP is required for the development of iNKT cells." Nat Commun. 2013;4:1582. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2580.
  • Academic Affiliations & Courses +
  • Activities & Honors +

    Honors

    • Phi Beta Kappa, 1973
    • Scholar of the Insurance Medical Scientist Scholarship Fund, 1979 - 1981
    • Michael A. Shanoff Research Award, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1980
    • Alpha Omega Alpha, 1981
    • Fellow, Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research, 1981 - 1984
    • Professors' Award for Excellence in Teaching, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1993
    • Elected Member, American Society for Clinical Investigation, 1996
    • Elected Member, The Henry Kunkel Society, 1999
    • Elected Member, Association of American Physicians, 2013

    Memberships

    • American Association for the Advancement of Science
    • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
    • American Society for Clinical Investigation
    • Association of American Physicians
    • Clinical Immunology Society
    • Henry G. Kunkel Society

    Professional Activities

    • Director, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1992 - 1999
      M.D.-Ph.D. Program
    • Organizer, Mid-Atlantic Immunobiology Conference, 1994
      Signal Transduction Session
    • Invited Participant, Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies and Defense Science Board, 2003
      Strategic Concepts for Biodefense
    • Invited Participant, International Conference on Biosafety and Biosecurity, 2005
    • Board, European Genetics Foundation, 2007
    • Editorial Board, Journal of Molecular Medicine, 2007
    • Life Sciences Advisory Board, State of Maryland, 2007
    • Advisory Committee, Harvard Medical School, 2009
      Leder Human Biology Program
    • Reviewer, National Institute on Aging, 2011
      Board of Scientific Counselors
  • Videos & Media +

    Videos

    Stephen Desiderio - Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences

    Dr. Stephen Desiderio, director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, talks about the center and what it has to offer for graduate education at Johns Hopkins in the basic sciences.

    The Need for Funding Basic Research

    Dr. Stephen Desiderio, director of Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, explains the current federal funding climate for biomedical research, the need for change and the dangers of not continuing to fund basic research. Dr. Desiderio's speech was recorded on October 29, 2013, at the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences' Molecules & Martinis event held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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