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Smita Kesavan Nair, PhD

Professor in Surgery
Professor in Pathology
Professor in Neurosurgery
Office: Room 1077, Msrb-2, 106 Research Drive, Durham, NC 27710
Campus Mail: DUMC Box 103035 Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710

I have 22 years of experience in the field of cancer vaccines and immunotherapy and I am an accomplished T cell immunologist. Laboratory website:

Current projects in the Nair Laboratory:
1] Dendritic cell vaccines using tumor-antigen encoding RNA (mRNA, total tumor RNA, amplified tumor mRNA)
2] Local immune receptor modulation using mRNA that encodes for antibodies, receptor-ligands, cytokines, chemokines and toll-like receptors (current target list: CTLA4, GITR, PD1, TIM3, LAG3, OX40 and 41BB)
3] Combination therapies for cancer: cytotoxic therapy (radiation, chemo and oncolytic poliovirus therapy) with dendritic cell-based vaccines and immune checkpoint blockade
4] Adoptive T cell therapy using tumor RNA-transfected dendritic cells to expand tumor-specific T cells ex vivo
5] Adoptive T cell therapy using PSMA CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) RNA-transfected T cells
6] Direct injection of tumor antigen encoding RNA (targeting antigens to dendric cells in vivo using nanoparticles and aptamers)

Education and Training

  • Ph.D., University of Tennessee at Knoxville, 1993

Selected Grants


Manimekalai, R, Nair, S, Naganeeswaran, A, Karun, A, Malhotra, S, and Hubbali, V. "Transcriptome sequencing and de novo assembly in arecanut, Areca catechu L elucidates the secondary metabolite pathway genes." Biotechnology Reports 17 (March 2018): 63-69.

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Reap, EA, Suryadevara, CM, Batich, KA, Sanchez-Perez, L, Archer, GE, Schmittling, RJ, Norberg, PK, Herndon, JE, Healy, P, Congdon, KL, Gedeon, PC, Campbell, OC, Swartz, AM, Riccione, KA, Yi, JS, Hossain-Ibrahim, MK, Saraswathula, A, Nair, SK, Dunn-Pirio, AM, Broome, TM, Weinhold, KJ, Desjardins, A, Vlahovic, G, McLendon, RE, Friedman, AH, Friedman, HS, Bigner, DD, Fecci, PE, Mitchell, DA, and Sampson, JH. "Dendritic Cells Enhance Polyfunctionality of Adoptively Transferred T Cells That Target Cytomegalovirus in Glioblastoma." Cancer research 78, no. 1 (January 2018): 256-264.

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Mastria, EM, Cai, LY, Kan, MJ, Li, X, Schaal, JL, Fiering, S, Gunn, MD, Dewhirst, MW, Nair, SK, and Chilkoti, A. "Nanoparticle formulation improves doxorubicin efficacy by enhancing host antitumor immunity." Journal of controlled release : official journal of the Controlled Release Society 269 (January 2018): 364-373.

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Zhao, F, Xiao, C, Evans, KS, Theivanthiran, T, DeVito, N, Holtzhausen, A, Liu, J, Liu, X, Boczkowski, D, Nair, S, Locasale, JW, and Hanks, BA. "Paracrine Wnt5a-β-Catenin Signaling Triggers a Metabolic Program that Drives Dendritic Cell Tolerization." Immunity 48, no. 1 (January 2018): 147-160.e7.

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Gromeier, M, and Nair, SK. "Recombinant Poliovirus for Cancer Immunotherapy." Annual review of medicine 69 (January 2018): 289-299.

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Brown, MC, Holl, EK, Boczkowski, D, Dobrikova, E, Mosaheb, M, Chandramohan, V, Bigner, DD, Gromeier, M, and Nair, SK. "Cancer immunotherapy with recombinant poliovirus induces IFN-dominant activation of dendritic cells and tumor antigen-specific CTLs." Science translational medicine 9, no. 408 (September 2017).

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Batich, KA, Reap, EA, Archer, GE, Sanchez-Perez, L, Nair, SK, Schmittling, RJ, Norberg, P, Xie, W, Herndon, JE, Healy, P, McLendon, RE, Friedman, AH, Friedman, HS, Bigner, D, Vlahovic, G, Mitchell, DA, and Sampson, JH. "Long-term Survival in Glioblastoma with Cytomegalovirus pp65-Targeted Vaccination." Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research 23, no. 8 (April 2017): 1898-1909.

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Singh, A, Nair, S, and Jain, R. "Pyridoxine responsive seizures secondary to isoniazid prophylaxis in an infant." Neurology India 65, no. 7 (March 1, 2017): S94-S95. (Letter)

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Holl, EK, Brown, MC, Boczkowski, D, McNamara, MA, George, DJ, Bigner, DD, Gromeier, M, and Nair, SK. "Recombinant oncolytic poliovirus, PVSRIPO, has potent cytotoxic and innate inflammatory effects, mediating therapy in human breast and prostate cancer xenograft models." Oncotarget 7, no. 48 (November 2016): 79828-79841.

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Boczkowski, D, and Nair, SK. "The RNAissance period." Discovery medicine 22, no. 119 (August 2016): 67-72. (Review)