Hollern Lab

Daniel Hollern

Principal Investigator

My passion for science and cancer research began with my grandfather’s diagnosis with a rare form of malignancy, angiosarcoma of the scalp. The news that my grandfather was sick with an incurable metastatic disease shattered my world. Next my uncle, was diagnosed with Stage IV colorectal cancer. The dire prognosis for both my uncle and grandfather was a result of their cancer spreading and a lack of effective therapies for their treatment. Yet, within every cancer patient is an opportunity for an effective, even curative therapy using our own immune system.

If we knew how to better control the activities of our immune cells, we could solve the majority of human health problems, particularly cancer. I am fascinated by the ability of the immune system to survey the cellular and molecular ecology of the body and seek out disseminated tumor cells or eliminate individual cells with emerging malignant potential. We have only scratched the surface in our understanding of anti-tumor immunity and how to leverage the immune system effectively in our treatment of cancer. This is why I am so excited about our lab’s findings indicating that the most durable anti-tumor immune responses are driven by B cells, providing us with an opportunity to provide innovative therapies for cancer patients.


Mara Gilardi

Postdoctoral Fellow

A biotechnologist by training with a bioengineer core. I integrate different mouse models and “ad hoc” designed 3D organ-on-a-chip and spatial quantitative microscopy to dig in previously inaccessible biological mechanisms aimed to develop new more effective precision-multimodal  therapies facing cancer, from different perspectives. In particular, I am driven by outstanding biological questions focused on curing late-stage metastatic breast, head and neck cancer patients overcoming side effects at the interface with vascular biology. Currently, I’m leveraging new breakthrough technology such as spatial transcriptomic and computational tools to identify the role of the tumor-immune microenvironment in regulating immune checkpoint inhibitors response.

Kendrick Nguyen

Research Assistant

I am a UC Merced graduate who has been trained in classical immunological techniques. During my undergraduate studies I worked on projects aimed towards discerning the functions of CXCR5+ CD8 T cells and the role they play in various autoimmune diseases. I also worked on developing whole cell tumor vaccines in a myriad of different cancer types and successfully pushed them into phase I clinical trials. I am interested in pursuing a PhD in immunology with a focus in cancer immunology.

Monika Ramos

Research Assistant

Monika is a UC Santa Barbara graduate with a B.S. in Biological Sciences. During her undergraduate studies and after graduating, she worked for a Artificial Intelligence Drug Discovery startup. Over the course of 2.5 years, she worked on projects that identified small molecule drugs for autoimmune gastrointestinal disorders, skin conditions (Atopic dermatitis and psoriasis), SARS-CoV-2 and various cancer subtypes. Specifically, Monika contributed to the indication and target selection, design of the computational platform, and in vitro and in vivo experimental validation. Throughout her experiences, Monika found a passion for studying immune evasion mechanisms by both pathogens and cancer; as well as autoimmune diseases that arise as a consequence of immune dysfunction. She has a particular interest in studying neglected and rare subtypes of diseases. Monika plans to pursue a PhD in Biology with a focus in cancer immunology. In her spare time, Monika enjoys painting, singing, camping, swimming and reading.

James Terzian


James is a rising third year undergraduate student at UC San Diego studying Human Biology and Global Health. James aims to intersect his passion for cancer research with the study of B and T cells. He plans to continue his research in immunotherapy and eventually attend medical school in the future.