Stephen Desiderio, MD, PhD


Deputy Director for Basic Science Translational Research, Institute for Clinical and Translational Research

Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Director, Institute of Basic Biomedical Sciences Immunobiology

Program Director, Institute for Cell Engineering


Dr. Desiderio began his Hopkins career as a student, receiving both his medical degree and a doctorate in molecular biology from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1981. He then served as a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with David Baltimore, a 1975 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of reverse transcriptase.

Returning to Hopkins in 1984 as assistant professor of molecular biology and genetics, Dr. Desiderio also began serving as an associate for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). He became a full professor in 1995 and an HHMI Investigator in 2000. Dr. Desiderio is currently the director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences (IBBS). The IBBS promotes the fundamental research that drives advances in medicine, from solving protein structures to dissecting cell movement, from analyzing chromosome structure to deconstructing biochemical pathways. This type of basic science discovery provides the foundation for the translational work that ultimately results in better diagnostics, treatments, and cures for patients. Education and Training

BA (Biology and Russian), Haverford College, Philadelphia, PA, 1974
PhD (Molecular Biology), The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 1981
MD, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 1981
Postdoctoral Fellow, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 1981-1984
Accomplishments, Recognition, and Service Teacher and mentor to numerous researchers- and physicians-in-training, Dr. Desiderio received a Professors’ Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1993. From 1992-1999, he served as the director for the MD-PhD program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Desiderio currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Molecular Medicine and has authored of more than 75 peer-reviewed research articles. An internationally in-demand lecturer and advisor, he is part of the board of the European Genetics Foundation in Bologna, Italy, and on the advisory committee of the Leder Human Biology Program at Harvard Medical School. He is also a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Henry Kunkel Society. Research Interests Dr. Desiderio work addresses the molecular and genetic mechanisms responsible for the development of the immune system, with a focus on how genomic plasticity generates immunologic diversity. He is particularly interested in V(D)J, or somatic, recombination in health and disease and in the regulation of lymphocyte development. Using a combination of genetics and biochemistry, Desiderio’s group has defined a specific control mechanism restricting V(D)J recombination and has illustrated in murine models how this mechanism protects against the development of lymphoid cancers. The Desiderio laboratory also investigates the signaling mechanisms responsible for immunological response to environmental cues. For example, his team has uncovered a novel way in which calcium is regulated in response to antigen receptor stimulation. The team is currently testing whether this mechanism contributes to the decision between activation and anergy (blocked responsiveness) in immune cells.