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Pillai Lab

Innate Immune Regulation, Transplantation Tolerance, and Immunotherapy

Lab Members

Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology & Immunology
Deputy Director of Translational Research
Department of Pediatrics
Co-Director, FOCIS Center of Excellence in Human Immunology
Member, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Attending, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology/BMT
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
FOCIS Committees - Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies
FOCIS Highlights | Science Immunology

Damena Gallimore-Wilson

Damena Gallimore-Wilson, was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where she graduated with her merits in Food & Nutrition. Damena and her family later moved to the United States of America where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Keiser University, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Damena is an administrator extraordinaire, keeper of all birthdays, and has several other important functions for overall lab sanity. Chief among these is routinely extricating Drs. Pillai and team from the administrative snafus though routinely get pulled into. When she's not busy doing that, Damena can be found cooking in her kitchen or running in a 5k event. She has a very cute infant son who is likely a future presidential candidate (lab vote).

Sunil Joshi, DVM, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor

Sunil Joshi was born in Agra, India and completed his BS, DVM with honors in Clinical Veterinary Medicine. After 2 years of veterinary residency (MVSc) in Immunology, Sunil completed his PhD in Structural & Cellular Immunology from the International Center for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi. Sunil relocated with his family to the USA for a postdoc in Molecular Immunology at Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA, followed by a special biodefense project on the role of NKT-B cell interaction cells in key infectious diseases. After a brief tenure-track faculty position at the Center for Bioelectrics in Virginia, in 2018 Sunil relocated to the Pillai group at the University of Miami, where he currently continues his work on interaction of NKT cells with other key immune populations.When not in the lab, Sunil enjoys drag car racing, cooking, listening to Indian classical music, and meditation.

Anouk Hamers, Ph.D.

Assistant Scientist
Anouk Hamers, originally from Tilburg, the Netherlands, received her M.S. degree in Biomedical Sciences in 2008 at the UMC St Radboud University and her PhD in the lab of Prof. Dr. CJM de Vries at the University of Amsterdam where she studied the role of Nuclear Receptor Nur77 in inflammation. While finishing her thesis, she started a post-doc on nano-delivery of drugs to the atherosclerotic plaque in the lab of Prof. Dr. ESG Stroes. After enduring lots of rain in the Netherlands, Anouk moved to sunny San Diego for a post-doc at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology with Prof. Dr. CC Hedrick. During this time, she studied human monocyte diversity and developed expertise in CyTOF mass cytometry. In August 2018, Anouk joined Dr. Pillai’s lab at the University of Miami as an Assistant Scientist and at present she is still figuring out what she will work on in particular with regards to the innate immune system in graft-versus-host disease…more to come! When Anouk is not in the lab, she quite frequently disappears into the depths of the ocean or can be found beer-tasting at a local brewery.

Kelly Andrews, Ph.D.

Assistant Scientist

Kelly Andrews, originally from Lansing, Michigan, graduated with a BS from Western Michigan University. Kelly moved to Memphis, TN to escape the frigid winters of Michigan while she obtained her PhD in immunology from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in the laboratory of Dr. Elizabeth Fitzpatrick. As a post-doc, Kelly joined the laboratory of Dr. Asha Pillai where she managed a research project involving the ex vivo expansion of human invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells from primary immune cells isolated from peripheral blood to determine their cytotoxic and regulatory potential in anti-cancer immunotherapy and bone marrow transplantation. Now at the University of Miami, Kelly continues her iNKT cell research as an assistant scientist while learning R programming for the analysis of flow cytometry data. When not in the lab, Kelly enjoys the sun and ocean while walking by the beach and dragon boat paddling as a member of the Puff Dragon Boat Racing team.

Duneia McManus

PhD Candidate
Program in Biological Sciences
Duneia McManus was born in Prince Georges County, Maryland, where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park. To gain more research experience, she attended Virginia Polytechnic and State University under the NIH-funded Post Baccalaureate Research and Education Program. Wanting some fun in the sun, Duneia enrolled into University of Miami’s Programs in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS) Immunology Ph.D. program. Within the Pillai Lab, her research interest include researching the role of innate immune regulation in adaptive immunity and translating these to develop novel methods for expansion of both murine and human natural regulatory T cell populations using specific antigen presenting cells and evaluation of the expanded cells within GVHD models. In her spare time, she loves to dance (ballet, tap, jazz, and hip hop), shop, and perform during Paris Fashion Week.

Acacia Crouch

MD, PhD Candidate
Medical Scientist Training Program

Andrea Webster-Carrion, M.D.

Andrea was born and raised in Cuenca, Ecuador. She earned her Medical Degree from Universidad del Azuay. While preparing for her residency, Andrea worked as a Research Assistant in Health Literacy Projects at New York University. Andrea subsequently matched at Holtz Children’s Hospital/University of Miami for her Pediatrics residency. During this time, her Clinical Research centered on Hemophilia and Sickle Cell Disease. Andrea recently joined the team due to her interest in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation. She is currently applying for fellowship in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, and plans to pursue further training in translational research in this field. During her spare time, Andrea enjoys long-distance running and serves as the co-chair for Women in Medicine as part of the Committee of Interns and Residents.