Christina Roark

ClinImmune Gene and Cell Therapy

Dr. Christina (Tina) Roark received her PhD in Immunology from the University of Colorado where she studied gamma/delta T cells in the liver and their response to listeria infection. Her interest in autoimmune diseases led her to be a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Brian Kotzin, studying T and B cells in a murine model of lupus. In 2001, Tina became a faculty instructor at National Jewish and focused her research on gamma/delta T cells and their role in a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis where she discovered that gamma/delata T cells are an important source of IL-17 and can exacerbate collagen-induced arthritis in mice. Tina did a brief stint in industry where she worked on developing a rapid diagnostic test for diabetes before joining ClinImmune Cell and Gene Therapy and the University of Colorado AMC in 2012, where she is an assistant professor and associate director of the HLA lab. Her current research in rheumatoid arthritis is focused on the development of tools to specifically edit DRB1*04:01 at position 71, from lysine to glutamic acid (K71E), which eliminates the binding preference for arthritogenic peptides. The strong correlation between peptide binding and susceptibility suggests that editing the HLA gene would alter peptide binding and attenuate disease. This approach creates entirely new clinical avenues for the treatment of autoimmunity without the need for chronic immunosuppression by specifically changing the peptide binding profiles of HLA molecules associated with disease.