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The one hundred honoree: Shiv  Pillai, MD, PhD

Innovation Story

The one hundred honoree: Shiv Pillai, MD, PhD

Mass General Giving

Shiv Pillai, MD, PhD, is an immunologist and geneticist at the Mass General Center for Cancer Research and a popular professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Pillai and his colleagues in the laboratory explore basic questions about the function of the immune system in health and disease. Their goals are to develop new therapies for human chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, lupus and Crohn’s disease, and to devise new strategies for manipulating the immune system to fight cancer.

Using advanced genetic tools, the Pillai Laboratory is deciphering abnormal signaling pathways associated with follicular lymphoma, a common form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Dr. Pillai and his colleagues have also found a novel way to strengthen the activity of helper T-cells — specialized white blood cells that enhance many different aspects of the immune response. Their work provides new hope for developing more effective, personalized, immune-system based treatments for cancer.

Dr. Pillai is the author of two major textbooks on immunology. His students have uploaded many YouTube videos of poems and raps he uses in class that help them remember complex immunological pathways.

“Dr. Pillai is one of the most beloved teachers at Harvard Medical School,” writes Daniel A. Haber, MD, PhD, director of the Mass General Cancer Center. “He is revered for his clarity of presentation, exceptional sense of humor and dedication to his students.”