Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT, and Harvard
Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences and Technology
Harvard Medical School
Harvard Immunology PhD program
The Pillai lab has made fundamental discoveries about immune cells called B lymphocytes. This work has led to novel treatments currently in use in patients with B cell leukemias and autoimmune diseases. This laboratory also studies how immune cells can “go rogue” in autoimmune diseases like systemic sclerosis and IgG4-related disease, in patients with genetic disorders of the immune system, and in COVID-19 and other severe viral infections and uses the knowledge gained to collaborate with colleagues on clinical trials.
The Pillai lab explores the contributions of B cells to the development and function of T follicular helper cells and cytotoxic CD4+ T cells. We study these cells and their subsets in the context of inflammatory diseases like systemic sclerosis, IgG4-related disease, atherosclerosis, and COVID-19. We also explore how chromatin changes, including DNA methylation, influence B and T cell lymphocyte development, and B cell-T cell collaboration and immune function. We are interested in the development of subsets of T follicular helper cells and how alterations in T and B cell collaboration can drive different types of memory B cell responses, alter the durability of antibody responses, and may be of causal importance in severe infections like COVID-19. We also investigate how novel single-gene mutations in humans alter regulatory T cell function and lead to a breakdown in B cell tolerance and thus cause autoimmunity.
Dr. Pillai received the Indian National Science Academy Medal for Young Scientists in 1980 and the Irving London Award for Excellence in Teaching, HST, from the Harvard Medical School in 2001. He received a Thomas McMahon mentoring award, from Harvard Medical School in 2013 and was named Harvard Crimson Professor of the Year in 2017. He directs an NIAID Autoimmune Center of Excellence at MGH. Dr. Pillai is a member of the American Association of Immunologists and the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies.
Dr. Pillai received his medical degree at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Calcutta, working with Bimal Bachhawat. He was a postdoctoral fellow with David Baltimore at the Whitehead Institute and MIT and joined the faculty at MGH and the Harvard Medical School in 1988. Shiv is the author of “Lymphocyte Development” and the co-author with Abul Abbas and Andrew Lichtman of “Cellular and Molecular Immunology” and “Basic Immunology.” He heads the Harvard Immunology PhD and Masters' programs and directs courses in immunology at Harvard College, Harvard Medical School, the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies, and the HMX platform.
Pillai S, Baltimore D.
Nature 1987; 329:172-174
Aoki Y, Isselbacher KJ, Pillai S.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 1994; 91:10606-10609
Cariappa A, Liou, HC, Horwitz B, Pillai S.
J.Exp. Med. 2000. 192, 1175-1182
Cariappa A, Tang M, Parng C, Nebelitsky E, Carroll M, Georgopoulos K, Pillai S.
2001. Immunity 14, 603-615
Surolia I, Pirnie SP, Chellappa V, Taylor KN, Cariappa A, Moya J, Liu HY, Bell DW, Driscoll D, Diederichs S, Haider K, Netravali I, Le S, Elia R, Dow E, Lee A, Freudenberg J, DeJager PL, Chretien Y, Varki A, MacDonald ME, Gillis T, Behrens TW, Bloch D, Collier D, Korzenik J, Podolsky DK, Hafler D, Murali M, Sands B, Stone JH, Gregersen PK, and Pillai S.
Nature 2010, 466, 244-247
Farmer J, Allard-Chamard H, Sun N, Bertocchi A, Mahajan VS,Aicher T, Arnold J, Benson MD, Morningstar J, Barmettler S, Yuen J, Murphy SJH, Walter JR, Ghebremichael M, Shalek AK, Gerzsten R, Pillai S.
Science Signaling 2019 12(604). pii: eaaw5573. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.aaw5573
Maehara T*, Kaneko N*, Perugino CA*, Mattoo H, Kers J, Allard-Chamard H, Mahajan VS, Liu H, Murphy SJH, Ghebremichael M, Fox D, Payne AS, Lafyatis R, Stone JH, Khanna D, Pillai S.
J Clin Invest. 2020 130, 2451-2464
Kaneko N, Kuo HH, Boucau J, Farmer JR, Allard-Chamard H,Mahajan VS, Piechocka-Trocha A, Lefteri K, Osborn M, Bals J, Bartsch YC, Bonheur N, Caradonna TM, Chevalier J, Chowdhury F, Diefenbach TJ, Einkauf K, Fallon J, Feldman J, Finn KK, Garcia-Broncano P, Hartana CA, Hauser BM, Jiang C, Kaplonek P, Karpell K, Koscher EC, Lian X, Liu H, Liu J, Ly NL, Michell AR, Rassadkina Y, Seiger K, Sessa L, Shin S, Singh N, Sun W, Sun X, Ticheli HJ, Waring MT, Zhu AL, Li JZ, Lingwood D, Schmidt AG, Lichterfeld M, Walker BD, Yu X, Padera RF, Pillai S and the Mass CPR specimen working group.
Cell, 2020. 183, 143-157. PMID: 32877699
Instructor In Medicine
Instructor In Pathology
Instructor In Medicine
Research Technician I
Our people are our greatest asset. We are committed to creating a supportive and inclusive environment that is welcoming for all.
The Ragon’s faculty includes many of the world’s most creative scientists, engineers, and clinicians.