Brian Ruffell, PhD - Associate Member


Dr. Ruffell is in the Department of Immunology at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, with secondary/courtesy appointments in the Department of Breast Oncology and the University of South Florida. Dr. Ruffell received his Ph.D. in Immunology at the University of British Columbia in 2008, and completed his postdoctoral studies investigating the impact of macrophages on response to therapeutic intervention at the University of California, San Francisco and Oregon Health and Science University. Since 2015 the Ruffell lab has been focused on the regulation and roles of dendritic cells in controlling the development of breast cancer, and in dictating the efficacy of chemotherapy and targeted therapeutics. 


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Kay Hänggi, PhD - Postdoctoral Scholar


Kay Hänggi recieved his Ph.D from the Institute of Experimental Immunology at the University of Zurich in 2016 in the field of cell death and inflammation in cancer. From there, he proceeded as a postdoc in the lab of Dr. Brian Ruffell with a main interest in programmed necrosis (necroptosis) and its role in cancer immunity. Dr. Hänggi is currently funded by a Postdoc Mobility Fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

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Daiana Celias, PhD - Postdoctoral Scholar


Daiana Celias received her PhD at the National University of Cordoba, Argentina, in 2019. Her doctorate focused on the modulation of innate immune response by helminth-derived antigens. She is currently doing a postdoctoral degree in the laboratory of Dr. Brian Ruffell with a primary interest in the regulation of tumor DNA uptake by dendritic cells, exerted by the immune checkpoint  T-cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain-3 (TIM-3), and its potential application into the development of new antitumor therapeutic strategies.


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Alycia Gardner, BS - Doctoral Candidate


Alycia Gardner is a PhD candidate in the Cancer Biology PhD program at the University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center. Alycia received a Bachelor of Science in biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2015, during which she completed an undergraduate research project examining DNA repair mechanisms in the lab of Dr. Leona Samson. Her current project focuses on the role of intratumoral dendritic cells in the anti-tumor immune response to solid tumors treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Alycia has received both an F31 Predoctoral Fellowship (F31) and a Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Award (F99/K00) from the NIH/NCI during her graduate studies.


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Jie Li, MS - Doctoral Candidate


Jie Li is a graduate student in the Cancer Biology PhD program at the University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center. Jie received her Master of Medicine in oncology from Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China in 2019. During this time she received her medical doctor license and worked as a resident physician to complete a research project evaluating risks of metastasis and radioresistance in lung cancer patients with type 2 diabetes. She currently studies metabolism in myeloid cells and its role in promoting breast tumor therapeutic resistance.


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Alexis Onimus, BS - Doctoral Candidate


Alexis Onimus is a PhD student in the Molecular Medicine Biomedical Sciences Program at the University of South Florida. Alexis received a Bachelor of Science in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of South Florida in 2015. After graduating, Alexis spent her time in the biotechnology industry where she worked to improve upon and advance current therapeutic approaches in cancer immunotherapies before beginning her academic career with Moffitt Cancer Center. 


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Olabisi Osunmakinde, MSc - Doctoral Candidate

Olabisi Osunmakinde is a graduate student in the Cancer Biology PhD program at the University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center. In 2017, Olabisi received her Bachelor of Science in Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology from IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems in Austria. During this time, she completed an undergraduate research project examining the interactions between human CMV and different types of cells, with an emphasis on hematopoietic and oral mucosal cells in the lab of Dr. Laura Hertel at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California. In 2020, Olabisi completed her Masters in Medicine (Industrial Specialization) at Aalborg University in Denmark, during which time she completed a rotation project in the Ruffell lab on the molecular mechanisms by which putative ligands for TIM-3 regulate its function. Olabisi is continuing this research to understand how TIM-3 and its ligands regulate the function of different immune populations in cancer.


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Former Lab Members


Postdoctoral Scholars

2017-2020: Asmaa El-Kenawi, PhD - Contact  •  Google Scholar  •  Research Gate

2015-2019: Alvaro de Mingo Pulido, PhD, MBA - Contact  •  Google Scholar  •  Scopus Database  •  Loop


Visiting Scientists

2016-2017: Tomohiro Yonezawa, DVM, PhD - Visiting Professor


Volunteer Researchers

2019-2020: Olabisi Osunmakinde - MSc Internship, Aalborg University, Denmark

2018 & 19: Reymi Pena Caraballo - Summer Student

2018: Kaylee Steiner - SPARK Program


Staff Scientists

2019-2020: Aysenur Keske, MD - Research Associate

2018-2019: Leenil Noel, BS - Research Associate

2017-2018: Vivian Lee, BS - Research Associate

2015-2017: Shandi Heibler, BS - Research Associate