Eduardo Villablanca

Principal researcher

About me

During my master degree, I was trained as a developmental biologist, with expertise in cell migration using zebrafish as in vivo model. As a doctoral student in the molecular medicine program at San Raffaele University, Milan, I started my training as immunologist with specific focus on dendritic cells (DC) and tumor cell interaction. I identified a novel immune escape mechanism in which tumors produce and secrete oxysterols, which in turn target LXR receptors inhibiting CCR7 expression in DC (J. immunol, J. Leuko. Biol. and Nat. Medicine). Interested in intestinal leukocyte trafficking, I joined J. Rodrigo Mora’s lab (Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston) to perform my postdoctoral training. During the first two years I contributed to determine the mechanisms by which intestinal DC gain their gut-associated tolerogenic properties (Gastroenterology, J. Immunology, Cell, etc.).

In 2010, I won the prestigious postdoctoral fellow award from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) and took the lead of a project aimed to further characterize the mechanisms of oral immunological tolerance induction. I found that expressions of gut homing receptors (e.g. CCR9) are crucial on leukocytes to establish oral immunological tolerance (Gastroenteroglogy and Gut). Given my accomplishments during my fourth and last year as a postdoctoral training I was supported by Dr. Mora and Dr. Ramnik Xavier (chief of the GI unit) to be promoted Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. As Instructor in Medicine and in order to start defining my own research path I joined Dr. Xavier lab to study the function of IBD risk genes in the context of intestinal immune homeostasis (Nat. Comm., Immunity, Cell rep., etc).

Motivated by cutting-edge research performed as well as the prestige of the institution I decide to look for a position at the Karolinska Institutet. In 2013, I was awarded the Center for Immune Modulatory Therapies for Autoimmnity and Cancer (IMTAC) senior research fellow Based on a scientific plan proposing to study the connection between DC trafficking from the bone marrow and gut immunological tolerance. Hence I started my own research group in November 2014, as an assistant professor at the department of Medicine, Solna (MedS). With background in developmental biology, tumor and mucosal immunology using either zebrafish and mouse models as well as human samples, I believe I am poised to uniquely contribute to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying IBD.

Research description

Our lab is seeking to understand the genetic, cellular and environmental contribution towards inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) susceptibility. We have developed a research program that integrates cellular immunology, bioinformatics and the creation of novel in vivo models to ultimately interrogate the function of IBD-associated polymorphisms as well as to study host-microbiota interactions. In particular, we are trying to understand how deregulation of intestinal immune homeostasis might lead to IBD and trying to discover the function of IBD-risk genes identified by Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS). To discover the function of IBD-risk genes, we focus on biological processes that are involved at the initiation (priming of adaptive immune responses), progression (chronic inflammation) or resolution (tissue repair) of IBD. To translate genetic mutations to function, we have developed an innovative pipeline that integrate bioinformatics and animal models, including zebrafish and mouse, to ultimately validate candidate mutations in human tissues by using organoids. We aim to transform the way in which the gene-environment interactions are currently being investigated.



Courses and degrees

1998, B.S. Bachelor in Science, University of Chile, Santiago

12/2004, M.Sc.Molecular Biotechnology Engineer University of Chile, Santiago

Doctoral degree

10/2007, Ph.D. Biomedical Sciences, Immunology, Under the supervision of Vincenzo Russo, M.D., Universita Vita-Salute, Milan

Current position

 11/2014 – Present,     Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet

 11/2015 – Present     Faculty member, SciLifeLab

 02/2016 – Present     Group Leader, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet

Previous positions including post doc appointments.

03/2008 – 02/2012               Postdoctoral Fellow in Mucosal Immunology, MGH, Harvard Medical School, Boston. Under the supervision of J. Rodrigo Mora, M.D.. Ph.D.

02/2012 – 11/2014   Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Under the supervision of Ramnik J. Xavier, M.D.. Ph.D.

02/2012 – 11/2014   Assistant Immunologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

03/2012 – 11/2014   Research Scientist, Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA  

Academic honours, awards and prizes

In 2010, I won the prestigious postdoctoral fellow award from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) and took the lead of a project aimed to further characterize the mechanisms of oral immunological tolerance induction. Hence I started my own research group as an assistant professor at the department of Medicine, Solna (MedS). I have received the Swedish Research Council Young Scientist Award (6 MSEK/4 years), FORMAS (3 MSEK/3 years) and I have been appointed as Wallenberg Academy Fellow (7.5 MSEK/5 years) towards developing a cutting-edge biomedical research program focused on intestinal mucosal immunology. I have achieved national and international recognition for my work as can be inferred from the numerous talks I have been giving in U.S., Europe, Asia and South-America, and from awards and funding I have obtained thus far. I have also been named one of the 40 under 40 most promising Latin-American Scientist by the South American magazine “Que Pasa”.

Selected awards

- Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation (2014)

- IMTAC FoAss position award, chosen as primary candidate (2014)

- CCFA research award, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), NY, USA (2010)

Others awards

- 40 under 40 in Latin American Science, Que Pasa magazine (2014)

- Best paper award, San Raffaele Institute, Milan, Italy (2010)

- Best presentation award, RCAI International summer Program 2010, Yokohama, Japan (2010)

Scholarships and travel awards

- DC2012 Travel Award,

- Keystone symposia scholarship, To attend the Mucosal Immunology Symposia, Vancouver, Canada (2011)

- RCAI Fellowship, To attend the RCAI International Summer Program, Yokohama, Japan (2010)

- LACI Scholarship, To attend “The 9th Latin American congress of Immunology”, Chile (2009)

- EMBO Travelling fellowship, To participate in the EMBO practical course: “Enhancer Detection, Gene Trapping and TILLING in Zebrafish”, Bergen, Norway (2005)

- Travelling fellowship Leloir Institute. To attend the course “Gene Therapy in Latin America: from the bench to the clinic”, Buenos Aires, Argentina. (2002)

- ECOS-Conicyt ICM P99-137 Fellowship, To perform research at the laboratory of Dr. Alain Ghysen, Montpellier, France (2002)