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Dr. Lieberman's research background | Overview

Judy Lieberman

Judy Lieberman holds an Endowed Chair in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and is Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She served as the Director of the Division of AIDS and chaired the Executive Committee of Immunology at Harvard Medical School and the Medical Sciences Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. She graduated from Radcliffe College, Harvard, received a PhD in theoretical physics at Rockefeller and an MD in the joint Harvard MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology. Before medical school, she was a high energy theoretical physicist, member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and researcher at Fermilab studying elementary particles, quantum field theory and general relativity. She was a postdoc with Herman Eisen in the Cancer Center at MIT and trained in internal medicine and hematology and worked as a hematologist/oncologist at New England Medical Center. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

Judy Lieberman is an immunologist. Her lab studies the innate and adaptive immune response to infection and cancer. They described the mechanisms used by killer lymphocytes (cytotoxic T cells and NK) to destroy cells targeted for immune elimination and protect us from infection and cancer. She also uncovered novel mechanisms by which killer lymphocytes kill microbial pathogens. She was the first to describe T cell exhaustion in humans and to test antigen-specific T cell therapy. More recently she uncovered the molecular basis for inflammatory death (pyroptosis), which lies at the root of inflammation, sepsis and cytokine release syndrome. Recent work identified important roles for pyroptosis in SARS-CoV-2, Yersinia, and Group A streptococcal infections, in immune control of cancer and in neurodegeneration. She also identified an inhibitor of pyroptosis and is a cofounder of Ventus Therapeutics, a company that is developing drugs to inhibit inflammation. Dr. Lieberman also was the first to show that small interfering RNAs could be used as drugs and to develop methods of cell-targeted RNA delivery. Her laboratory is currently investigating the use of aptamer-linked siRNAs for cancer therapy. They also uncovered roles of microRNAs and lncRNAs in regulating cancer. 

Selected awards and honors

1991-97 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
2004 Association of American Physicians
2005 Interurban Clinical Club
2008 American Academy of Arts & Sciences
2009 Heath Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to cancer research, University of Texas MD Anderson 
Cancer Center
2012 Distinguished Immunologist 2012, University of Alberta
2015 Outstanding Physician Scientist Award, Gene Expression Systems
2018 George Khoury Lecture, NIH, Office of the Director, Bethesda, MD
2018 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
2019 Eva Neer Memorial Lecture, Harvard Medical School
2020 Keynote Lecture, Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society annual meeting
2020 Fred Rosen Lecture, Harvard Medical School
2020 National Academy of Sciences
2020 National Academy of Medicine
2021 Highly Cited Researcher, Clarivate
2022 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology, Cancer Research Institute
2023 Fellow, Academy of the American Association for Cancer Research
2023 International Cytokine & Interferon Society Pfizer Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research