Fotis Asimakopoulos | MB BChir, PhD
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, an effort that eventually took 18 years to fruition with the publication of 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.
Gauri Deb | Project Scientist
Gauri completed her PhD in Biosciences and Bioengineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati, India. As recipient of international Fulbright-Nehru Doctoral and Professional research fellowship, she carried out a part of her PhD research work in Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, USA working on cancer epigenetics.
During her first postdoctoral training in Dr. Tim Somervaille’s laboratory, Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, she developed keen interest in understanding the molecular underpinnings that drive malignant transformation and was actively working on identifying oncogenic vulnerabilities and potential drug-gene synthetic lethal interactions in acute leukemias such as AML using genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 based screens. Her work uncovered that inhibition of mTORC1 sensitizes human MLL-translocated AML cells to LSD1 inhibitor-mediated differentiation therefore highlighting a novel combination approach for evaluation in clinical trials (Leukemia 34(5):1266-1277).
In late 2017, she moved to California and joined Dr. Markus Müschen’s lab as a senior postdoctoral scientist at Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope. She worked on utilizing cutting-edge functional genomics approaches to understand basic mechanisms of oncogene signaling in preB-ALL and lymphocyte development and target discovery for development of pathway-specific therapeutics. She joined Asimakopoulus lab in Dec 2020 and her current research interest is to understand the biology and pathogenic mechanisms of minimum residual disease (MRD) in myeloma.
When not in lab, she enjoys reading, cooking and long walks on sunny California beaches with her family.
Thanos Papadas | PhD Student
Recipient of the 2020 AACR Scholar-in-Training Award, Thanos is a visiting graduate student from the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he previously conducted research with Dr. Asimakopoulos in the Cellular and Molecular Pathology program. His research focuses on the interplay of extracellular matrix with tumor immune milieu and particularly with dendritic cells.
He is from Patras, Greece and graduated with an MD from the University of Patras, School of Medicine before moving to Wisconsin to pursue his PhD.
Thanos's long-term goal is to become a Physician Scientist specializing in tumor immunology where his combination of clinical and research experience will bring novel immunotherapies from the bench to the bedside.
In his free time he enjoys running, surfing, biking, tennis and house music.
Garrett Arauz | Lab Manager
Garrett is our lab manager and a staff research associate. He graduated from University of California, Merced with a BS in Biology and has a background working with In Vivo cancer models.
Although a native to San Diego, Garrett has had experience working in both academic, and industry research labs across California. He has joined the Asimakopoulos Lab with the goal of establishing a highly competitive team of scientists, researchers, and students.
When not in the lab he enjoys surfing, backpacking, cooking and painting.
Varun Bansal | Postdoc
Varun received his M.S in biotechnology from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, India. He completed his PhD in Molecular Cell Biology from Samsung Biomedical Research Institute, Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea.
Varun’s graduate work was focused on chemical reprogramming of fibroblast and cancer biology. His current research interests focus on cancer immunotherapy and stem cell biology.
Outside of research, he likes learning and trying his hand at new creative projects.
Alex Cicala | Research Associate
Alex holds a Bachelors of Science in Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He first joined the Asimakopoulos lab as an undergraduate and has now followed Dr. A to San Diego.
He aims to further his education in an MD/PhD program en route to his career goal of becoming a physician-scientist.
His hobbies include exercising, watching sports, and dining with friends.
Alex Tong | Internal Medicine Resident
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.