Alessandro Sette, Ph.D. & Daniela Weiskopf, Ph.D.

La Jolla Institute for Immunology

About Alessandro Sette, Ph.D. & Daniela Weiskopf, Ph.D.

Dr. Alessandro Sette has devoted more than 35 years in biotech and academia to understanding and measuring immune responses, and developing disease intervention strategies against cancer, autoimmunity, allergy, and infectious diseases. Dr. Sette’s laboratory is the world leader in the study of the specific structures, called epitopes, that the immune system recognizes. Dr. Sette has overseen the design and curation efforts of the national Immune Epitope Database (IEDB), a freely available, widely used bioinformatics resource. The IEDB catalogs all epitopes for humans and experimental animals for allergens, infectious diseases, autoantigens and transplants, and includesepitope prediction tools to accelerate immunology research around the world. Dr. Sette’s lab uses knowledge of epitopes to define the hallmarks of a beneficial immune response associated with effective vaccines, as opposed toimmune responses that are ineffective or that cause harm. The laboratory’s infectious disease interests include SARS CoV2, dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, herpesviruses, poxviruses, lassa fever, HIV and hepatitis viruses, and bacterial pathogens such as tuberculosis and bordetella pertussis. Our investigations outside infectious disease include allergic asthma and Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Sette is a Doctor in Biological Sciences from the University of Rome and did postdoctoral work at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine in Denver, Colorado. In 1988, Dr. Sette joined the newly founded company Cytel, in La Jolla, and was also appointed adjunct assistant professor at The Scripps Research Institute. He founded Epimmune in 1997, where he served both as Vice President of Research and Chief Scientific Officer until 2002, when he joined LJI as Head of the Division of Vaccine Discovery. He also heads the Center for Infectious Disease at LJI.

Dr. Daniela Weiskopf has devoted her career understanding the T cell response to viral pathogens; she spent the last sixteen years studying infectious viruses relevant to human health and disease. In 2009, Dr. Weiskopf received her PhD in Immunology from Innsbruck Medical University, Austria, where she  performed research analyzing posttranslational modifications of virus-derived epitopes and modulation of the T cell immune response during aging. Following her PhD, Dr. Weiskopf obtained post-doctoral training at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) where her efforts were dedicated to characterize human dengue virus-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses in samples from areas with endemic dengue infection and following experimental dengue vaccination. One important outcome of these studies was the development of dengue specific epitope megapools (MPs) that allow the testing of virus specific T cells in small amounts of blood irrespective of HLA restriction of the donor and infecting serotype. Dr. Weiskopf further expanded her repertoire to study Zika and Chikungunya virus specific T cell responses and also became interested in the effects of pre-existing immunity against dengue virus to subsequent zika virus infection.

As a Research Assistant Professor in the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccine Research at LJI, Dr. Weiskopf focused most recently on the characterization of SARS-CoV-2 specific T cell responses. Understanding adaptive immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 is important for vaccine development efforts, interpreting disease pathogenesis, and calibration of future pandemic control measures.