Damon Runyon Researchers

Meet Our Scientists
Alesia N. McKeown, PhD

Dr. McKeown [HHMI Fellow] studies the innate immune system and its key role in suppressing many types of cancers. It is unclear why some cancers respond well to immunity-based therapies while others escape treatment and continue to spread. Her research is aimed at characterizing a new layer of host immunity composed of retrogenes of essential host proteins. She believes that these retrogenes act to inhibit viral infection by acting as nonfunctional “decoys” of host proteins required for the viral life cycle. By investigating how these decoys exert their antiviral function, she hopes to better understand the landscape of host immunity and utilize these new genes as potential therapeutics to halt similar pathways involved in cancer progression.

Project title: "Novel roles for retrogenes in host immunity"
Institution: University of Utah School of Medicine
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Nels Elde, PhD, and Cedric Feschotte, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Evolution