Susan Carpenter, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology,
University of California Santa Cruz,
Santa Cruz, USA

My training and expertise are in the areas of innate immunity and inflammation. My scientific career began with graduate studies under the mentorship of Prof. Luke O’Neill at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. My early work was focused on the germline encoded receptors such as the Toll like receptors (TLRs) and their functions in activating signaling pathways to provide protection against invading pathogens. We identified a previously uncharacterized LPS inducible protein, which we named TRIL (TLR4 interactor with leucine rich repeats). I identified TRIL as a critical component of the TLR4 and TLR3 signaling pathways. TRIL was found to bind to and function as a co-receptor for these two TLRs.

In 2010 I obtained a Health Research Board/Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowship enabling me to complete my postdoctoral training with Prof. Kate Fitzgerald at the UMASS Medical School. UMASS medical school hosts some of the leaders in the world of RNA biology. I was fortunate to form a number of collaborations, which lead us to one of the most exciting discoveries that long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) can play critical roles in controlling innate immune signaling pathways. During this time at UMASS I had the opportunity to work with computational biologists (Daniel Caffrey’s lab) as well as RNA biologists (Melissa Moore’s lab) on this exciting multidisciplinary project. The exceptional expertise in both innate immunity and RNA biochemistry facilitated rapid development and advancement of our work. We showed for the first time that one lncRNA, lincRNA-Cox2 acts as a key regulator of inflammatory signaling. lincRNA-Cox2 is essential for controlling basal levels of interferon stimulated genes (ISGs) and at the same time is needed for production of inflammatory stimulated cytokines. These are key events necessary to protect the host from infection and maintain homeostasis.

In 2013 I moved to the University of California in San Francisco to complete my postdoctoral training in the lab of Dr. Michael McManus. Michael is a leader in the field of RNA research and his lab has a strong technical background developing high throughout screening tools. I obtained funding from the arthritis national research foundation to work on lncRNAs controlling inflammation during this period. While at UCSF I developed by expertise in deep sequencing and high throughput screening.

I began my independent research program at the University of California in Santa Cruz in 2015. My research involves the study of long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) and their functions within the immune system. Our use of Cas9/CRISPR technology allows for rapid and meaningful progress to be made in understanding the regulatory functions of lncRNA. My ultimate research goals are to provide critical and novel insights into how our immune cells develop and respond during infection with the aim to identifying novel drug targets leading to improved therapeutics for infectious and inflammatory diseases. Since establishing my independent research group at UCSC in 2015 I have had two graduate students complete their training, and I am currently training 6 graduate students. I have supervised 3 postdoctoral researchers and two technicians as well as over 40 undergraduates. We run a CRISPR Core facility out of my lab that provides services including cloning, generation of cells lines and running high throughput CRISPR screens. I am eager to provide a vibrant and productive research setting to help train the next generation of researchers.

I have been a member of the International Cytokine and Interferon Society (ICIS) for over a decade. I first became aware of the society as a graduate student when the then Cytokine and Interferon Societies first merged. Every year I attend the ICIS conference with my students. I have found it to be one of the most welcoming communities and I am eager to be an active participant of the society as Secretary. I am dedicated to the mission of the society and look forward to having this opportunity to serve.