Robyn Loves, Immunology
Student Name: Robyn Loves, MSc
Program: Master of Science, Department of Immunology, University of Toronto, Class of 2020
Supervisor: Dr. Eyal Grunebaum (Head of Division of Immunology and Allergy, The Hospital for Sick Children)
Master’s Research Project Title: Gene Therapy for Purine Nucleoside Phosphorylase Primary Immune Deficiency
My graduate research involves the use of a lentiviral gene therapy to treat a primary immune deficiency in children. Patients born with such immune deficiencies, including deficiencies in the enzyme purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP), often suffer from recurrent infections, autoimmunity, and developmental delays from birth. Currently, the only option for long-term correction of these immune deficiencies for these patients is a stem cell transplant from a healthy matched patient. This option, however, is not available for most patients and using unmatched or parent donors is associated with higher chances of complications and death following the transplant. Thus, we have proposed a virus that can deliver the corrected PNP gene to the patient cells that will be used to correct the immune deficiency, providing a one-time, safe and effective long-term solution for these patients, which we hope will enhance the quality-of-life for these patients.
During my degree, I have had the opportunity to be involved in various extracurricular activities. I was able to continue my participation with the varsity rowing team for a fifth season, and compete at the national championships in Victoria, BC. I was involved with writing for IMMPress, and content design for StemCellTalks, and volunteered with various organizations supporting children and families dealing with cancer diagnoses.
I was awarded the following awards during my degree:
- Mitacs Globalink Research Award
- CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship – Master’s Award
- Mitacs Research Training Award
- University of Toronto Rowing Kiran Van Rijn Leadership Award
- University of Toronto Student Leadership Award
I am currently working as a clinical research project assistant at The Hospital for Sick Children, where I am carrying out clinical research related to infectious diseases in children with cancer. I will resume my studies with the Department of Immunology in the fall of 2021 and look forward to continuing my research and contributing to knowledge related to pediatric primary immune deficiencies.