Interview with Eli Gilboa, PhD
Eli Gilboa Ph.D.
Dodson Professor of Microbiology & Immunology
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
How did you become interested in the field of oligonucleotides?
A main interest and focus of my lab is cancer immunotherapy. The overall approach has been the development of personalized dendritic cell vaccines; our “claim to fame” was transducing dendritic cells with of mRNA-encoded (tumor) antigens. Dendritic cell vaccination is however inherently complex and costly and its promise is yet to be realized. In the middle of 90th I recruited Bruce Sullenger, formerly a graduate student of mine, to join the research section of the Surgery department at Duke University who introduced me to the magic of oligonucleotide aptamers (and incidentally became my boss…). Given my growing frustration with the ability to contribute to the dendric cell vaccine field, I started to explore the use of aptamers as a platform for developing more cost-effective, and importantly cell-targeted, immune modulatory agents, a transformation that took center stage when I moved to the Medical School of University of Miami.
Who were your early mentors?
1. Chaim Aviv, Weismann Institute, Rehovot, Israel, Ph.D, advisor. Remember oligodT isolation of poly A+ mRNA? That’s him.
2. David Baltimore, M.I.T., Boston. Needs no introduction. I was a postdoc with him.
Why do you continue to support the OTS?
Arguably the preeminent forum for education and networking opportunity.
What is special about the type of research/work you’ve done?
I love it.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I am an avid reader (see below), and recreational jogger. And if forced to admit, an opera buff of the old fashioned Bel Canto kind, Il Trovatore, Ernani, Lucia De Lammermoor, I Puritani, Carmen, Barbier de Seville, and more. Some favorite books I read recently (from a very long list, available upon request):
The War at the End of the World, Mario, Vargas Llosa
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
Beach Music, Pat Conroy
A Suitable boy, Vikram Seth
Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
Suite Francaise, Irene Demistrovsky
The Secret Fan, Shanghai Girls, Peony in Love, by Lisa See
Skippy Dies, Paul Murray
Any other fun facts/tidbits you’d like us to know!
i. Research is supposed to be a “team effort”. If you want to know what an ideal team is, just visit my lab.
ii. The uphill battle facing an aspiring or junior scientist: Pursuit of scholarly, curiosity-driven science – in the face of increasingly “metricised”, business-driven, “safe” science promoted by the current powers to be.
iii. What did I learn during my scientific career:
- Experience comes at the expense of innovation; we experienced scientists know so much that we always know why something would not work. Are you then surprised why innovations are mostly coming from junior scientists?
- The second most important thing to excel in science is to learn from one’s mistakes; the most important thing is to also learn from other’s mistakes.