School of Medicine
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Instructor, Pediatrics - Stem Cell Transplantation
BioDr. Cepika is an immunologist with an extensive background in translational research, autoimmunity, autoinflammation, and human systems immunology. Her goal is to understand the mechanisms governing immunological tolerance, and to leverage this knowledge to cure currently incurable diseases.
Dr. Cepika received her MD degree and a PhD in Immunology from the University of Zagreb School of Medicine in Croatia. There, she focused on the immunomonitoring of patients with lupus, identifying how circulating DNA levels changed with therapy. Subsequently, she joined the lab of Dr. Virginia Pascual at the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Pascual had previously discovered that IL-1beta is a key pathogenic player in systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (sJIA), but the immune alterations contributing to IL-1beta-mediated inflammation remained unknown. To address this, Dr. Cepika developed a 3D in vitro stimulation assay to evaluate immune responses of blood leukocytes of pediatric sJIA patients. In combination with integrated bioinformatics analysis, this approach identified aberrant cellular responses, transcriptional pathways and genes that shed new light on immune dysregulation in sJIA. This assay can be further applied to dissect underlying immunopathogenic mechanisms in many human disorders.
Currently, Dr. Cepika is a member of the laboratory of Dr. Maria Grazia Roncarolo, in the Pediatric Division of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. There, she is working to uncover the underlying mechanisms governing type 1 regulatory T (Tr1) cell differentiation and function, and use this knowledge to design Tr1 cell-based therapies for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, cancer immunotherapy and autoimmunity.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Stem Cell Transplantation)
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsDr. Czechowicz’s research is aimed at understanding how hematopoietic stem cells interact with their microenvironment in order to subsequently modulate these interactions to improve bone marrow transplantation and unlock biological secrets that further enable regenerative medicine broadly. This work can be applied across a variety of disease states ranging from rare genetic diseases, autoimmune diseases, solid organ transplantation, microbiome-augmentation and cancer.