Yasmine Belkaid, Ph.D. (AAI ’13), is the chief of the Metaorganism Immunity Section and chief of the Laboratory of Host Immunity and Microbiome at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), NIH.
Dr. Belkaid studies how commensal microbiota and pathogens interact with host barriers to result in inflammation or tolerance. The skin and gut are highly specialized environments that are in constant contact with both commensal bacteria and potential pathogenic threats, and aberrant over- or under-activation of the immune response at these sites could be life-threatening. Her laboratory studies this delicate dichotomy: immune tolerance of innocuous microbiota and robust and rapid response to pathogenic challenges. Her group has described the role of commensals in shaping the immune defense of the skin and gut. Focusing on the gut microenvironment, her group has also described how diet and nutrition (and in particular, Vitamin A) shape effector versus regulatory immune responses and the impact of malnutrition on immunity. Her group has also described the gut compartment itself as a site of regulatory cell induction. Lastly, they have demonstrated the impact of acute infections on tissue immunity. Current areas of research address the function and mechanism of microbiota contributions to tissue immunity and inflammation, how prenatal and early life exposures to microbiota affect longer term immune responses, and tissue-specific strategies to avoid destruction during inflammation.
Belkaid completed her Ph.D. in immunology at the Orsay University at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France. In 1996, she moved to NIAID, where she was a Fogarty Fellow and staff scientist. After serving as an assistant professor at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati, Belkaid returned to NIAID in 2005. She has since risen through the ranks at NIAID while also serving as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania since 2007.
Belkaid has received numerous awards, including several NIAID MERIT Awards, the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences, and the AAI-Thermo Fisher Meritorious Career Award. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the Henry Kunkel Society, and the National Academy of Sciences, associate member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), and fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.