Kappler Marrack Research Lab

Lab Personnel

Most of our work over the years has focused on T cells. T cells are amongst the cells which recognize that an infection is occurring in the body. They accomplish this in an unexpected way, by reacting with fragments of the infection bound to special proteins of the body, the MHC proteins. We are trying to find out how T cells learn to react in this way. We are also interested in the ways in which T cells are prevented from attacking MHC proteins bound to fragments of their own host. In most people such attack is efficiently avoided. However, in some individuals T cells do react in this way, and this event causes autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes. However we do also study B cells, in particular a previously under investigated type of B cell (ABC) we first found in elderly female mice, but which has also been found by others and ourselves in women and mice with autoimmune diseases and in mice and humans with various infections including SARS-CoV-2. In mice these cells are important producers of autoantibodies and antibodies that efficiently get rid of virus infections. However, although they can produce autoantibodies in humans, their significance in infections is not currently known.

Team Photo

Jo Alamri, Administrative Assistant II

Jo Alamri
Executive Assistant


Christopher Brown

Chris Brown
Lab Researcher


Ethan Torpy

Ethan Torpy
Lab Researcher



Katja Aviszus

Katja Aviszus, PhD, Senior Researcher


ABCs (age associated B cells) are a subtype of B cells that were originally identified in elderly female mice. Since their discovery in mice, ABCs have also been discovered in humans. We and others have found ABCs in patients with autoimmune diseases, virus infections, and even specific cancers. At the moment, I am focusing on these cells suffering from virus infections or cancer. In collaboration with the lab of Dr. Robinson at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, I am investigating ABCs in patients with Melanoma. With the Liu and Zhang labs in our department and physicians at National Jewish, I am looking at ABCs in COVID patients. As SARS CoV-2 has been reported to lead to autoimmune side effects, our research with ABCs is coming full circle.


Brendan Reed, PhD, Research Associate

Alex Brown, Graduate Student


I study how the T cell receptor repertoire of murine αβ T cells is influenced by particular MHC alleles. We believe this work can deliver important insights into understanding genetic susceptibility to developing various autoimmune diseases. Successful completion of this work will lead to new bioinformatic tools and a new high-throughput platform to sequence paired TCRαβ chains, which could be useful to many researchers.


Niyun Jin

Niyun Jin, MD, PhD, Instructor


Auto-reactive CD4+ T cells are involved in autogenesis of Type 1 diabetes. In a nonobese diabetic mouse (NOD) model of type I diabetes, we have found  a neuropeptide WE14 as an antigen  for highly diabetigenic CD4+ T cell clones. WE14 is from posttranslational processing of Chromogranin A. My project is to identify WE-14 reactive CD4+ T cells in vivo, the time course of these cells appearing in pancreas and peripheral, and the T cell repertoire of We-14 reactive T cells. We will also study how Chromogranin A is processed in pancreas.


Brendan Reed, PhD, Research Associate

Sky Lee, PhD, Research Fellow


I am currently working on two projects: (1) I have solved the crystal structure of a unique TCR-pMHC complex originating from a HLA class II-restricted HIV-specific CD8+ T cell discovered in an HIV controller. I am looking into the potential mechanism for this cross-reactivity. (2) I am developing a novel large-scale method to evaluate and correlate the TCR-pMHC affinities to their cell-specific phenotypes. I intend on using this method to test the hypothesis that, on average, high-affinity T cells exhibit the exhaustion and/or Treg phenotypes, whereas low-affinity T cells exhibit the effector phenotype in Type 1 Diabetes.


Brendan Reed, PhD, Research Associate

Brendan Reed, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow


Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by destruction of the insulin producing beta cells present in the pancreatic islets. Over the past few decades we have come to better understand some of the immunological, environmental, and genetic factors that contribute to the development of T1D. A hallmark of the immune based component of the disease consists of a CD4 T cell mediated attack against beta cell specific antigens in the context of MHC class II molecules, however the exact processes initiating the disease still remain unclear. We are interested in better understanding the antigen processing and presentation events responsible for the CD4 T cell activation that occurs in response to these newly produced, diabetogenic antigens.


Hassan Waheed Senior Lab Researcher

Hassan Waheed, Senior Lab Researcher


As a Senior Lab Researcher, I design and generate new genetic constructs, as well as express well-established constructs, for protein production, purification, and analysis. Specifically, I perform ELISA, run numerous FPLC columns, produce MHC-tetramers, perform flow cytometry, produce and purify antibodies, maintain mammalian and insect cell lines, etc. My expertise in these techniques have extensively contributed towards research pertaining to COVID-19, Type 1 Diabetes, HIV, and Psoriasis.


Pengcheng Wei, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow

Pengcheng Wei, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow


Psoriasis is among the most common T cell mediated autoimmune diseases and afflicts 2–3% of the global population. Many genetic studies have identified HLA-C*06:02 as the strongest risk gene for psoriasis. Compared with HLA-II mediated autoimmune disease, such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and celiac disease, the molecular mechanisms of how HLA-I presented autoantigen recognized by disease-relevant T cell receptors remains largely unknown. My research is uses immunology, biochemistry, and structural biology to study the molecular mechanisms of antigen presentation and T cell recognition in psoriasis. Our research may broaden our understanding of the pathogenic mechanism of HLA-I mediated autoimmune diseases and may provide novel targets for future psoriasis treatments.


Janice White, Research Specialist 1

Janice White, Senior Researcher


I am currently studying the repertoire of murine αβ T cells and the bias of T cell receptors for reaction with MHC.