Judy Lieberman, Endowed Chair in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, is an immunologist, who studies killer lymphocytes and how they destroy cells targeted for immune elimination and protect us from infection and cancer. More recently she uncovered the molecular basis for inflammatory death, which lies at the root of inflammation, sepsis and cytokine release syndrome and is studying how inflammation affects cancer and infection. Her laboratory has also been in the forefront of developing RNA interference-based therapeutics and investigating the role of noncoding RNAs in regulating cancer. Lieberman received her A.B from Harvard, physics PhD at Rockefeller and worked as a high energy theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and Fermilab before enrolling in the joint Harvard-MIT Health, Science and Technology Program where she earned an MD. She did a postdoctoral fellowship in immunology at MIT and trained in internal medicine and hematology-oncology at New England Medical Center. She served as Director, Division of AIDS, and Chair, Executive Committee of Immunology, at Harvard. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

The Lieberman laboratory studies killer lymphocytes and how they eliminate infected or cancerous cells. They study immune pore-forming molecules that damage cell membranes and cytotoxic granule proteases (granzymes) that activate programmed cell death in cells targeted for immune elimination They recently found that killer cells play an important role in immune defense, not only against viruses, but also against bacteria and parasites and activate microbial programmed cell death ("microptosis"). They are currently examining the role of killer lymphocytes in malaria and in protection from infection during pregnancy. Her laboratory recently discovered the molecular mechanism responsible for inflammatory death (pyroptosis) triggered by innate immune recognition of invasive infection and other signs of danger. Their current work is devoted to investigating the role of inflammation in infection and cancer and identifying ways to manipulate it therapeutically. Her laboratory has also been in the forefront of harnessing RNA interference for therapeutics. Currently they are developing aptamer-linked siRNAs for treating cancer. They also investigate the role of noncoding RNAs in regulating cell proliferation, cell differentiation, DNA damage repair and metastasis in cancer.

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Primary Section

Section 43: Immunology and Inflammation