Kirti Nath, Harvard Medical School and MIT
What is the most interesting article you read recently?
I recently read Erickson et al.’s paper Pregnancy enables antibody protection against intracellular infection. Since I started medical school, I have been fascinated by the biological processes that underlie adaptation to pregnancy. I believe that understanding these processes at a mechanistic level will improve maternal health outcomes and lead to new insights regarding metabolic stress, immune tolerance, and immunogenicity. This paper is a striking example of how investigating maternal immunology can lead to findings that can be applied outside of pregnancy. Here, the authors show that pregnancy can induce a glycosylation modification on antibodies specific for Listeria monocytogenes. This confers vertical protection against an intracellular pathogen in an antibody-dependent manner, challenging conventional wisdom in the field.
Who inspires you as a scientist?
Roy Vagelos and Kirti Nath
I was fortunate enough to have met Dr. Roy Vagelos during college. I am inspired by his motivation to break down barriers that exist between academia and industry. I think this interdisciplinary vision is inextricably linked to his ability to lead people in delivering large-scale biomedical innovation. Learning from his example, I have incorporated many different fields of study into my formal education on the path toward becoming a physician-scientist. Dr. Vagelos’ legacy as an interdisciplinary scientist is his unique commitment to scientific discovery and drug development as well as social good. The next generation of physician-scientists will need to be involved in many facets of translational medicine, from the bench to the bedside, encompassing research, entrepreneurship, and clinical care.
What do you think the future holds for your field?
Kirti in the lab
Echoing my sentiments from above, I believe that the future of biomedical science is increasingly interdisciplinary. As technology scales and data-driven medicine becomes more of a reality, not only will the silos between biomedical research and other fields begin to blur, but so will the barriers between different fields within biomedicine, such as bioengineering, cell biology, and computer science. I am particularly interested in immunology. I work in a systems immunology lab at MIT, which combines principles in systems biology with classical immunology to answer questions about how immune responses are dramatically shifted due to subtle alterations in host biology. This is a particularly powerful approach because it allows us to understand how processes like autoimmunity might arise without dramatic loss-of-function mutations in the traditionally implicated genes. This interdisciplinary solution creates a model that might better represent how immune pathologies arise in the vast majority of patients. In the future, I believe that there will be increasing collaborations between investigators and professionals in different fields who together can develop new approaches to solve problems in biomedical research, clinical medicine, and healthcare delivery.