Katherine Doll Kanne defends PhD Thesis

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

On April 25, 2016, Katherine L. Doll Kane successfully defended her thesis titled, "CD8 T cell dependent and independent immunity against Plasmodium following vaccination". She is pictured with her mentor Dr. John Harty.

Plasmodium species are the causative agents of malaria, which leads to nearly 400,000 deaths a year. Currently, there is no licensed vaccine that will provide protection in the majority of vaccinees.  Thus, a better understanding of how to generate protective immunity against Plasmodium is needed in order to design an effective vaccine.

Rodent models of malaria have shown that CD8 T cell responses directed against liver-stage parasite antigens can provide complete protection. However, the quantitative and qualitative requirements for this protection remains largely undefined.  My studies sought to better understand these CD8 T cell requirements.

My work highlights the ability to generate protective immunity against Plasmodium infections that is CD8 T cell dependent or independent.  Protection can be achieved through potent blood-stage-specific antibody responses without contributions by CD8 T cells, or via numerically large single-specificity CD8 T cell responses that target parasite antigens that are efficiently presented during liver-stage infection. These studies have contributed to our understanding of how to generate protective immunity against Plasmodium and could aid in the advancement of subunit vaccination approaches that prime protective immune responses targeting both the liver- and blood-stages of Plasmodium

About Katherine

Katherine was born and raised in rural Willmar, Minnesota by her wonderful parents, Richard and Diane.  As the youngest of three daughters, Katherine has always had a healthy competitive spirit with her two older sisters, that continues today. Thanks to the infectious passion of two amazing biology teachers, Katherine developed an intense interest in biology during her high school years, but it was really during a researchinternship with Pioneer-Dupont during her senior year that her love for scientific research flourished. Katherine decided to continue conducting research during her undergraduate studies. By the end of the second week of freshman year at the University of Minnesota, Katherine was conducting research on S. aureus pathogenesis in the lab of Dr. Yinduo Ji. In her senior year of college, she worked in Dr. Pamela Skinner’s lab characterizing virus-specific CD8 T cell responses in SIV-vaccinated rhesus macaques; as a result of this research experience, Katherine developed a deep interest in the immune response to infectious disease. 

Due to her newfound interest in the intersection of microbiology and immunology (particularly CD8 T cells), Katherine accepted an offer to the University of Iowa Microbiology Doctoral program and  joined the laboratory of Dr. John T. Harty in 2011. In the Harty laboratory, Katherine sought to understand the immunological requirements for protection against Plasmodium infections. During her graduate years, she had the opportunity to present her research at various conferences including the American Association of Immunology Annual Meeting and Keystone Malaria. She was financially supported by the NIH-T32 Mechanisms of Parasitism training grant for a portion of her studies. 

During her graduate studies, Katherine discovered another passion: the stock market.  Following graduation, Katherine plans to combine her two passions into a career as an equity research analyst. She has an offer to join a Biotechnology Equity Research Team with a New York City  investment bank following graduation to assist in the research of therapeutics as potential investment opportunities, particularly immune-based cancer and viral therapies. Katherine and her husband Bryon are excited to move to New York City. Although the rent will be ridiculously high, at least they can eat at a new sushi restaurant each night. Katherine also is excited to swing around her 44-pound kettlebell in numerous NY-area kettlebell sport competitions.