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The Ott Lab gets exciting grant news

Melanie Ott

The Ott Lab, in collaboration with Drs Niren Murthy, and Nir Yusef at UC Berkeley as well as Dr. Steven Deeks at UCSF, was awarded an R61 grant by the National Institute of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This grant will enable the Ott Lab to study primary latently infected T cells isolated from aviremic HIV-infected drug users using single-cell RNA-Seq and CRISPR technology.

In more good news, the Ott Lab’s recent R01 renewal ranked in the 3rd percentile during review at NIAID.

Two new members join the Ott Lab

Melanie Ott

The Ott Lab started off 2019 by adding two new postdoctoral scholars, Gili Aviv and Danielle Lyons. We are very excited to have these two join our team! Welcome, Gili and Danielle!

To learn more about our lab members, scroll over the ‘People’ button, and select ‘Lab Members’.

Ibraheem Ali gives exit talk

Melanie Ott

On December 21st, 2018, Ibs gave his exit talk, one of the final stages of completing his PhD. Ibs will continue to work in the Ott Lab as a postdoctoral scholar while he works on a manuscript for publication.

Congrats, Dr. Ali!

Krystal Fontaine and Kristoffer Leon publish Zika paper

Melanie Ott

Krystal and Kris’ paper “The cellular NMD pathway restricts Zika virus infection and is targeted by the viral capsid protein” has been accepted for publishing by mBio! Co-authors include Mir Khalid, Sakshi Tomar, David Jimenez-Morales, Mariah Dunlap, Julia A Kaye, Priya S Shah, Steve Finkbeiner, Nevan J. Krogan, and Melanie Ott.

Congrats, Krystal and Kris!

Melanie Ott receives Chan Zuckerberg Award

Melanie Ott

Dr. Melanie Ott was awarded a Chan Zuckerberg Intercampus Research Award for her project “Defining host responses of virus- infected and uninfected neighbor cells”. This funding from the CZ Biohub will foster further scientific research collaboration between Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at San Francisco. More information about the award can be found here.

Congratulations, Dr. Ott!

Juan Torres presents research

Melanie Ott

Ott Lab summer intern Juan Torres presented the research he did with postdoc Nathan Meyers on August 1st. Juan's presentation was entitled "Using Liver Stem Cells to Develop a 3D Model for Studying Hepatitis C". Juan will return to UCLA in the fall to complete his undergraduate studies.

Great job, Juan!

Philip Ansumana Hull moves on to Bristol-Meyers Squibb

Melanie Ott

On June 22nd, Philip Ansumana Hull successfully defended his thesis and earned his PhD. His thesis work focused on immune aging, T cell biology, and T cell metabolism. This included identifying a novel evolutionary conserved SIRT1-FoxO1 axis that regulates CD8+ memory T cell metabolism and cytotoxicity. His last day in the Ott Lab was July 31st, and he is now off to work for Bristol-Meyers Squibb.

Congratulations, Ansu, and good luck at your new job!

Kristoffer Leon presents at the 2018 American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting

Melanie Ott

Kristoffer Leon presented his talk "Pediatric Brainstem Encephalitis Outbreak Investigation with Metagenomic Next-Generation Sequencing" during the Contemporary Clinical Issues Plenary Session at the 2018 American Academy of Neurology Annual meeting in Los Angeles, CA. The abstract was named a 2018 Abstract of Distinction to recognize top scientific achievement in the field. 

Complimentary access to the 2018 plenary sessions can be viewed using the link:

An Anti-Aging Protein Could Be Targeted to Rejuvenate Immune Cells

Melanie Ott

Aging proteins have long been shown to protect against age-related diseases, such as cancer, neurodegeneration, and cardiovascular disease. A study by researchers at the Gladstone Institutes now reveals that one such protein could also be targeted to rejuvenate cells in the immune system.

The protein in question is called SIRT1, more commonly known for being activated by red wine. In the new study, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the scientists found that it is also involved in how cells in the immune system develop with age.

They wanted to find out how this anti-aging protein affects a specific category of immune cells known as cytotoxic T cells. These cells are highly specialized guardians of the immune system and their role is to kill cells infected by a virus, damaged cells, or cancer cells.

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Melanie Presented with DiNA Award 2017

Melanie Ott

Congratulations, Melanie for being honored for your work with the Promoting Underrepresented Minorities Advancing in the Sciences (PUMAS) internship program by the California Life Sciences Association (CLSA). PUMAS supports educational activities that enhance diversity in biomedical research. Established in 2014 by Melanie Ott and Kathy Ivey at the Gladstone Institutes, the program encourages students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, who are currently attending a community college, to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).

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Cancer Drug Can Reactivate HIV

Melanie Ott


People living with HIV must take a combination of three or more different drugs every day for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, by following this strict treatment plan, they can suffer from side effects ranging from mild dizziness to life-threatening liver damage. However, if they stop taking the drugs, the virus hiding inside their cells can spontaneously resurface.

In fact, the latent HIV, which can hide in cells for many years, is a critical barrier to a cure. Researchers are exploring two main strategies to tackle this problem––reactivate and destroy the latent virus (called “shock and kill”) or find a way to silence it for good.

In an effort to tackle both strategies, a team of scientists at the Gladstone Institutes studies drugs that disrupt latency and could eventually be used to treat infected patients. They recently discovered how a new drug called JQ1, which is currently in early-phase human cancer trials, can reactivate latent HIV.

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Melanie Elected to The American Academy of Microbiology

Melanie Ott

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—June 1, 2017

Gladstone Senior Investigator Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, was elected as a fellow of The American Academy of Microbiology (AAM). She was chosen based on her outstanding contributions to microbiology research and her dedicated service to science and the public.

The AAM is the honorific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology, the world’s oldest and largest life science organization. AAM fellows are elected through a highly selective, peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. Each elected fellow has built an exemplary career in basic and applied research, teaching, clinical and public health, and industry or government service. Over the last 50 years, 2,500 distinguished scientists have been elected to the AAM.

“I am honored to be recognized by this remarkable distinction and delighted to be elected to such a prestigious academy,” shared Ott, who is also a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Ott’s research focuses on how viruses—HIV, the hepatitis C virus, and most recently, the Zika virus—hijack human cells to promote their own survival. Her work has contributed greatly to what researchers understand about these viruses, and it has inspired new research in each of these fields.

Ott received her MD from the University of Frankfurt/Main in Germany and her PhD from the Picower Graduate School in Manhasset, New York. She has received several honors and awards, including two Young Researcher Awards from the European Conference on Experimental AIDS Research and the Hellman Award from UCSF, which supports the research of promising assistant professors with the capacity for great distinction in their research. She also received the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service from UCSF, which recognized her work as co-founder of a committee at Gladstone that promotes science education in local schools, specifically targeting underserved youth.

The AAM will recognize Ott, along with the 2017 Fellowship class, during a ceremony and reception on June 2, 2017, at the American Society for Microbiology’s ASM Microbe meeting in New Orleans.

News and Highlights Community News Research News Media Coverage Videos For Journalists Study Reveals a New Method to Address a Major Barrier to Eradicating HIV

Melanie Ott

Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes discovered that an enzyme called SMYD2 could be a new therapeutic target for flushing out the HIV that hides in infected individuals. Overcoming this latent virus remains the most significant obstacle to a cure.

While drug therapy allows people living with HIV to lead a relatively normal life, it also comes with adverse effects. In addition, patients must stay on the drugs for life to prevent the virus hiding in their body from reactivating. In the early stages of infection, HIV hides in viral reservoirs in a type of immune cells called T cells. This dormant, or latent, virus can then spontaneously reactivate and rekindle infection if drug therapy is stopped.

To eliminate HIV latency, scientists are exploring a “shock and kill” strategy that would use a combination of drugs to wake up the dormant virus, then act with the body’s own immune system to eliminate the virus and kill infected cells. Previous research has had limited success in efficiently reactivating latent HIV, so scientists are working to find new, more effective drugs.

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