Dr. Penaloza-MacMaster is an Immunologist in the Department of Microbiology-Immunology and was recruited to Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in 2016 with a faculty recruitment award from the Third Coast CFAR. He was recently selected for an NIH Director New Innovator Award (DP2) to develop interferon-modulated vaccines against HIV. The project aims to develop antigenically tailored HIV vaccines containing diverse envelope sequences, with the goal of improving immune coverage in this population, and at the same time exploiting the adjuvanticity of IFN-I modulation.
Dr. Penaloza-MacMaster completed his graduate studies at Emory University and his postdoctoral training at Harvard University. His laboratory focuses on understanding adaptive immune regulation following natural infection and vaccination. Recently, his laboratory discovered a strategy to improve viral vaccines in mice by transiently blocking IFN-I. This unconventional approach improved the efficacy of various vaccines in mice, including those against flaviviruses, rhabdoviruses, arenaviruses and retroviruses. Transient IFN-I blockade following vaccination improved not only the immunogenicity, but also the cross-reactivity of HIV vaccines in mice, allowing immune responses to better recognize diverse antigen sequences. This result was completely unexpected, since during the last six decades, IFN-I was thought to play a positive role in the elicitation of immunological memory. These data are currently in review at a peer-review journal and serve as a rationale for prioritizing the further evaluation of IFN-modulated viral vaccines.
His laboratory also aims to quickly apply these concepts to develop more effective vaccines against SARS CoV-2 and other viral infections. “All this work is possible thanks to my students, especially Nicole Palacio, Tanushree Dangi, and Young Rock Chung,” Penaloza-MacMaster says. View a list of Dr. Penaloza-MacMasters’ publications, and read more about his recently completed K22 and R21 awards from NIAID.