The Team



Ana Fernandez-Sesma, PhD

Principal Investigator (

Profile: learn more

CV: Fernandez-Sesma CV

Dr. Fernández-Sesma is a Professor of Microbiology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS). Her group studies the modulation of innate immunity by viruses of human health interests, such as dengue (DENV), influenza (IAV), and others using primary human systems, such as dendritic cells, macrophages and tonsils. Dr. Fernández-Sesma obtained her MS in Biological Sciences from the University of Salamanca, Spain in 1990 and her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at ISMMS in 1998. She currently participates in several multi-investigator projects that use OMICS technologies to study immune responses to viral infections.  She is also very committed to graduate education and mentoring. She is the co-director of the Microbiology Main Training Area (MTA) of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at ISMMS since 2010. She has co-authored over 75 publications and is on the editorial board of several journals, such as Journal of Virology, PLoS Pathogens and mSphere among others. She has participated in several study sections for the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Defense (DoD) and is currently a member of the Scientific Council of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology of the NIH/NIAID.

Dr. Fernández-Sesma’s laboratory has received funding from the NIH and the DoD; and  for the past 4 years she has been ranked on the top 5 and the top female NIH-funded Investigator in Microbiology in the US by The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research (BRIMR)

She is currently the lead-investigator of the Dengue Human Immunology Project Consortium (DHIPC), which is one of the 9 NIH/NIAID-funded HIPC consortia ( that investigates the human innate immune responses to DENV in infected and DENV vaccinated individuals. Data from these studies is crucial to understand the early events that shape the innate and adaptive immune responses to DENV infections and vaccinations. The project has also been expanded to study human immune responses to chikungunya (CHIKV) and Zika (ZIKV) viruses.



tarrell malloyTarrell Malloy (

Program Coordinator




“My main role is to manage the multi-investigator project DHIPC, organize conference calls and coordinate all the needs for the different groups involved. I act as the liaison between the investigators and the administrative and financial offices both at ISMMS and the NIH. I also manage all the other projects of Dr. Fernandez-Sesma and assist Dr. Fernandez-Sesma and her team with grant submissions and scheduling”.


Dabeiba Bernal-Rubio( Senior Associate Researcher, Laboratory Manager






“My main research area is primary human cells isolations, differentiation and culture as well as DENV infections mainly related with DHIPC ongoing project. Also coordinate different projects in the lab by interacting with all the investigators in the team and providing technical and administrative support.”



 Uma Potla( Associate Researcher

“My main role is to assist the team with their ordering and research needs. I am responsible for the isolation of primary human cells, virus preparations and I work closely with Dabeiba Bernal to maintain a safe and efficient work environment in the lab”.

 Paula Lopez-Monteagudo PhD  ( Postdoctoral Fellow





“My main research interest lies in the study of the specific interactions between influenza A virus (IAV) and human myeloid cells. Specifically, I am focused in the role that human dendritic cells (DCs) have triggering the inflammatory response as well as initiating the adaptive response during IAV infection. In relation with that, I am also interested in the study of influenza virus virulence factors and how they can modulate the immune system.”


Rafael Fenutria, PhD  ( Postdoctoral Fellow

“My major area of interest is to understand the earliest events that occur when flaviviruses interact with human immune cells, and trying to understand the mechanistic details by which flaviviruses modulate human immune responses. We are also working to develop a novel (improved) mouse model for immunological evaluation of flavivirus infection”.

  Gabe (Laurence) Webb ( PhD Student
I study interactions of the cGAS-STING innate immune sensing pathway with different pathogenic arboviruses. My research goal is to inform the design of vaccines and antivirals by exploring the interplay of host-viral protein-protein interactions and discovery of previously unknown ways in which these viruses evade innate immune sensing.
   Tongtong Zhu( PhD Student
Tongtong Zhu is a Ph.D. candidate in the laboratory of Dr. Ana Fernandez-Sesma at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the Department of Microbiology. He holds a Masters of Public Health in Health Policy Analysis from Columbia University and graduated summa cum laude from St. John’s University with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences. His thesis is focused on the molecular aspects of dengue virus innate immune modulation by characterizing the major triggers of innate immunity in human cells during dengue virus infections through the DNA sensor protein cGAS. He currently serves on the board of Rubin Museum in New York City.
  Jessica Pintado Silva( PhD Student
I am interested in virus-host interactions on a very detailed level.  My main research focuses on the mechanism of interaction between viral and host proteins and their modulation of immune responses in host cells. Specifically, my work focuses on the characterization of viral proteases and the methods by which they interact, target and inhibit key components of the innate immune system.
Tinaye Mutetwa ( MSc student
I am interested in studying processes behind diseases of current global health concern by probing at virus-host interactions to inform computational models. In our lab, I have been able to explore the spatial and temporal dynamics of influenza A virus (IAV) and perform data analysis using R programming. More specifically, my master’s thesis focuses on addressing interesting findings from our lab adding to our knowledge of the role of interferons in early innate immunity. Hence, I am developing CRISPR-mediated type I or type III interferon receptor knockout cell lines and testing the effects upon Influenza A Virus infection.


Former Postdoctoral Fellows:

Sebastian Aguirre, PhD
Irene Ramos, PhD
Ana Maestre, PhD
Eric F. Mayer, MD, MSc
Kevin Maringer, PhD
Juan R. Rodriguez-Madoz, PhD
Graduate Students
Edwin Carbajal, PREP student
Rebecca Hamlin, MD/PhD candidate (PhD awarded 2017)
Anthony Fredericks, MSBS student
Sarah Pagni, PhD, MPH candidate (PhD awarded 2013)
Phoenix Bell, Ms., MSBS student
Timothy Savage, Ms, MD