Akiko Iwasaki

Yale University

Primary Section: 43, Immunology and Inflammation
Secondary Section: 44, Microbial Biology
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2018)


Akiko Iwasaki is a Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Iwasaki has made major discoveries in the areas of innate sensing of viruses, and instruction of adaptive anti-viral immunity. She has laid the foundation for key concepts in viral immunity and viral pathogenesis and introduced innovative approaches in vaccine design. Her research focuses on the mechanisms of immune defense against viruses at the mucosal surfaces, including SARS-COV-2, influenza virus and herpes simplex viruses. Dr. Iwasaki was born in Japan, immigrated to Canada to receive her bachelor of science in biochemistry in 1994 and her Ph.D. in immunology in 1998 from the University of Toronto where she studied DNA vaccines. She did her postdoctoral training with the National Institutes of Health where she studied mucosal immunity. She serves on the council of the American Association of Immunologists, and is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

Research Interests

Dr. Akiko Iwasaki is interested in how immunity is initiated and maintained at mucosal surfaces – natural ports of entry for pathogens. Iwasaki and her team focus on understanding how viruses are recognized by the innate immune system, and how that information is used to generate protective adaptive immunity. They study immune responses to herpes simplex viruses in the genital tract and influenza virus and SARS-CoV-2 in the lung. Dr. Iwasaki is directing translational immunology team to investigate the role of immune response in COVID-19 disease outcome. The team also investigates the role of endogenous retroviruses and transposable elements in host immunity and physiology. Ultimately, Dr. Iwasaki’s research goal is to improve rational design of effective therapeutics and vaccines to prevent transmission of viral pathogens and cancer.

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