Of brains and brain trusts

A letter from LJI President and CEO Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D.
Photo portrait of LJI Chief Operating Officer Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D.
LJI President and CEO Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D.

Immunologists have to think connections and networks. To stop disease, we need to understand the interplay of molecules and influences, genetic quirks, and cellular circuitry that power the immune system. When your work invites you to think about the body as a series of networks and circuits, it’s remarkable to realize there’s a central processing organ where the very basics of immune circuitry are still relatively unknown: the brain.

In just the last few years, researchers at LJI and around the world have discovered unexpected interactions between the immune system and the nervous system. I am confident this growing field of neuroimmunology will lead to new treatments for brain tumors, neurodegenerative diseases, infectious diseases, and even autoimmune diseases. Much of the brain is still undiscovered country for immunologists, so we’re excited to share our latest findings in Immune Matters.

This issue also offers an inside look at the launch of a new lab. LJI Assistant Professor Samuel Myers, Ph.D., shares the story of how his laboratory came together after he was hired by the Institute in 2021. I know from experience that starting a new laboratory means a lot of heavy lifting, late-night shopping—and trips to the hardware store. I want to thank Sam for bringing his chemistry expertise to LJI and for sharing a behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to launch a career in science. I also want to thank my colleague John Keegan, Chief Operating Officer (and subject of this issue’s Q&A article), for stepping into his new role and using his strong analytical skills and resourcefulness to ensure smooth day-to-day operations of the Institute.

LJI supporters like yourself play a direct role in keeping our agile Institute at the forefront of biomedical research. You shine the light so that LJI scientists can uncover still-shaded secrets of the human body. With donor support, new LJI faculty members can swiftly launch discovery programs and break new ground in fields like neuroimmunology.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Immune Matters. Let us share with you the new ground we’ve covered and remaining uncharted territories that keep immunology exhilarating. Walk with us into terra nova.


Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D.

President and CEO
La Jolla Institute for Immunology

Photo of a scientists in the laboratory of Samuel Myers, Ph.D. We see the scientists through a window in shelving. They are wearing a white coat and using a pipette

How to build a lab

Scientists often compare starting a new lab to starting a small business. It takes finding the right people and solid funding to make the dream work. Assistant Professor Samuel Myers, Ph.D., shares an honest look at what it’s like to start a new lab at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI).