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Fotis Asimakopoulos, MB BChir, PhD |    Principal Investigator

Fotis completed his MD/PhD at the University of Cambridge in the UK, working with Tony Green on mapping 20q deletions associated with pre-leukemias. He then spent two (in his own words, “unforgettable”) years in Jerusalem working with Dina Ben Yehuda as a Golda Meir Fellow on mechanisms underlying CML clonal evolution.


After residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, he joined Nobel prize laureate Harold Varmus’ group at MSK. In Harold’s lab, he began his work to generate a RAS-driven model for myeloma, a goal that eventually came to fruition several years later, with the publication of the VQ model (in collaboration with Jing Zhang’s group at UW-Madison as well as Marta Chesi and Leif Bergsagel at Mayo). 


In 2010, he became an Assistant Professor and later a tenured Associate Professor at UW-Madison. The Asimakopoulos lab moved to UCSD and sunny San Diego in 2019.

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Yun Huang, PhD.      |    Project Scientist

Yun completed his PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Science and Technology of China in 2012. His PhD works focus on the mitotic machinery in cancer cells and uncover the cause and consequence of chromosome missegregation, micronuclei and aneuploidy in cancer development. 


From 2013-2022 he joined the clinical research group of Prof. Jena-Pierre Bourquin at the University Children’s hospital Zurich where he pursuit the biomedical research focusing on childhood leukemia. Collaboration with distinguished scientists and clinicians internationally, he employed cutting-edge omics methodologies and in vivo approaches to dissect critical oncogenic determinants in fatal leukemia subtypes in children, model the disease in mice and translate into new insights of therapeutics (Huang Y, et al. Cancer cell 2019; Huang Y, et al. HemaSphere 2020; Boutter J, Huang Y, et al. Oncotarget 2014. etc). 


Inspired by the current progress in immune-oncology and the pioneering work by Prof. Fotis Asimakopoulos in anti-myeloma immunotherapy, he joined Prof. Asimakopoulos’s group as a project scientist at UC San Diego since 2022. Thanks to the innovational tools and discovery pipelines developed in the lab he will model and explore the molecular pathology of relapsed / refractory disease in anti-myeloma immunotherapy with hope of translating into clinical benefits with significant worldwide impact.

In his free time, Yun likes to go on hikes, play badminton and exploring sea sports. 

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Daniel Lagal | Post-doctoral Fellow

Daniel grew up in Spain where he completed his bachelor´s Degree in Biochemistry in 2017. His interests in oncological research aimed him to complete his Master´s Degree in Molecular Oncology in Spain in 2018. It was then that Daniel decided to start his PhD in the oncological field. Mainly, he developed his Ph.D. in Spain in Redoxins´ lab team, however, he was also working in the National Institute of Health in Maryland in collaboration with Professor Thomas Leto. His PhD was focused on the implications of antioxidant enzymes in proliferative and metastatic behavior of liver cancer cells through Differential Proteomic analysis and in vitro studies.  

Inspired by his interests on tumoral Microenvironment, tumor matrix immune crosstalk and his experience with in vivo models, he joined Prof. Asimakopoulos as a Postdoctoral-Scholar Employee in 2023. He is focused on how cancer cells can remodel the surrounding Matrix which influences anti-tumor immunity impacting on cancer cells behavior. He continues with his experience on lipid-based nanoparticle treatments in in vivo models and he Is developing new skills in CAR-T cell therapy in myeloma. 

During his free time, Daniel is passionate about CrossFit, weightlifting, water sport, hiking, and running around beach! 

He enjoys meeting new people and joining to social events! He expects to learn to surf during his stay in San Diego. 

Yaling Dou  |    Staff Research Scientist

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Alicia Gibbons  |    Graduate Student

Alicia grew up in Rhode Island and attended college at UCLA, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics. There, she studied CAR-iNKT cell therapy for cancer in the Lili Yang lab. She joined the Asimakopoulos lab in 2023 as a PhD student and aims to assist the lab in designing in situ cancer vaccines.


In her free time, Alicia likes to spend time with her family and friends, explore the outdoors, and read cool sci-fi books. 


Alex Tong    |    Medical Oncology Fellow

Alex grew up in Dallas, Texas and attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. Throughout undergrad, he was part of the Taosheng Chen Lab at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where he fell in love with bench-to-bedside translational cancer research.


Alex is currently an internal medicine resident at UCSD looking forward to pursuing an academic career in hematology/oncology. He did his MD/PhD at the Case Western Reserve University Medical Scientist Training Program in Cleveland, Ohio and worked in the Alex Huang Lab investigating cellular cancer immunotherapies and using 2-photon intravital microscopy to explore the dynamics of immune cells in lymph nodes.


He joined the Asimakopoulos Lab with an interest in uncovering immunoregulatory properties of matrix proteoglycans in multiple myeloma. 

Outside of the hospital/laboratory, Alex enjoys classical music, sci-fi novels and exploring San Diego with his wife and daughter. 

Esperanza Quionez-baltazar    |  Undergraduate Researcher

Esperanza is a senior undergraduate at UC San Diego,majoring in Human Biology from Lynwood, California. She joined the lab through the Genentech Scholars Program supported by the UC San Diego’s Division of Student Affairs and the Undergraduate Research Hub (URH). She is excited to learn about cancer research and grow her research skills. After her undergraduate studies, her goal is to attend medical school and become involved in research.

In her free time, she loves to spend time with family, friends, and dogs. She loves outdoor activities.

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Duncan Hong    |  Undergraduate Researcher

Duncan is a sophomore majoring in General Biology. His interests within the lab include getting first hand experience working with various techniques used in cancer research and in understanding how various cancer models function at a molecular level. His goals are to enroll into medical school and to take part in the fight against myeloma. 

In his free time he likes road trips, watching sports, and learning about business. 

Brolyn Zomalan    |    Undergraduate Researcher

Brolyn is currently a Sophomore at UCSD, majoring in Human Biology. He joined this lab to gain hands-on experience with lab work and learn about the specifics of how myeloma works. His goal after completing his undergraduate degree is to attend medical school and pursue a career in Dermatology.

In his free time, he likes to spend time with his family and friends, watch sports, and go to the gym.

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UCSD Lab Alumni 

Lab Managers, UCSD



Garrett Arauz, BS

University of California, Merced

Alex Cicala, BS MD/PhD (2022-ongoing)

University of Wisconsin BS

Stony Brook University MD/PhD

Alejandro Rizo, BS

Flordia International Univeristy

Tori Ribbens, MS

Fort Lewis College, BS

The University of Arizona, MS





Varun Bansal, PhD 

Project Scientists


Gauri Deb, PhD


Athanasios Papadas, MD PhD

UW Madison Lab Alumni (2010-19)

PhD and MD/PhD Graduate Students, UW- Madison






Athanasios Papadas, MD PhD (2021) 

Cellular and Molecular Pathology (CMP) graduate program 

AACR Scholar-In-Training Awardee 2020 

UCSD Visiting Graduate Student 2019-21

Evan Flietner, BS PhD(2022)

Cellular and Molecular Pathology (CMP) graduate program 

CMP T32 awardee 

(2019-2022, Zhang lab, UW-Madison)

Zachary Morrow, BS 

Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) graduate program 

NSF Graduate Research Fellow 2019-2023 

(2019-, Sauer lab, UW-Madison)

Jeff Jensen, MD PhD (2015) 

Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) graduate program 

UW MSTP student- UW ICTR TL1 awardee

Chelsea Hope, PhD (2016) 

Cellular and Molecular Pathology (CMP) graduate program 

UW Hematology T32 awardee; 

ASH Abstract Achievement Awardee 2012

Postdoctoral Fellow, UW- Madison


Sarbjeet Kaur Makkar, PhD

(University of Arkansas)

Rural and Urban Scholars in Community Health Program (RUSCH)


Rima Minazetdinova, UW-Platteville


Patricia Krueger, UW-Parkside 

Bianca Ruffolo, UW-Parkside 

Mohammad Raza, UW-Parkside

Shapiro Summer Research Program UW- Madison



Elena Kurudza, UW-Madison

Claire Flanagan, UW-Madison

MS graduate student, UW- Madison


Joe Ollar, MS (2014) 

Cellular and Molecular Pathology (CMP) graduate program 

Genomic Sciences T32 awardee

Lab Managers, UW-Madison



Adam Pagenkopf, BS

Ellen Hebron, BS

Clinical Residents/ Fellows, UW- Madison



Muhammad Umair Mushtaq MD

Sibgha Chaudhary MD

Sanjay Patel MD


Biology 152 Undergraduate Lab Course, UW- Madison


Tyler Graham, UW- Madison


Alex Glodowski, UW- Madison


Kimberly Gromek, UW- Madison

(Hilldale Undergraduate/ Faculty Research Fellow)


Jaye Dvorak, UW- Madison 

Alexander Cicala, UW- Madison

(Hilldale Undergraduate/ Faculty Research Fellow)

Science Research Internship program (SRI)


Samik Partha, Memorial High School, Madison 

Andrew Jiang, Memorial High School, Madison

Staff Research Associate, UCSD, Undergraduate Researcher, UW-Madison


Joshua Wiesner, UW-Madison

Senior Undergraduate Thesis program, UW-Madison


James Menting, UW-Madison 

Alexander Cicala, UW-Madison

Undergraduate Researcher, UW-Madison


Bradley Nagel, UW-Madison

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