Researcher biography

I am an enthusiastic immunologist with strong background in molecular biology techniques, including transcriptional profiling and vaccine development (Cruz JL et al., J Virol, 2013; Cruz JL et al., PloS Pathogens, 2011). I have been developing my professional, research and project management skills, as well as contributing intellectually and technically on several diverse academic and industry-based projects, since I began my PhD.

During my Undergraduate Biology studies I was awarded an “Introduction to Research Fellowship” by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Education, in order to allow me to join the laboratory of Dr León Barrios and Dr Pérez Galdona at the University of La Laguna. In 2006, I received my Bachelor Degree in Biology Summa Cum Laude (with highest honours), which was followed by postgraduate training at The National Centre of Biotechnology, Spain. I obtained a 4-year PhD Scholarship from the Community of Madrid where I worked in the development of genetically modified vaccines to protect against viral diseases in collaboration with Pfizer®’s animal healthcare division (Cruz JL et.,Virus Res, 2010). In parallel, I described a novel mechanism employed by RNA viruses to evade host innate immunity and modulate the host anti-viral transcriptional profile (Cruz JL et al.,PloS Pathogens, 2011; Cruz et al, J Virol, 2013). During this time I published 6 papers, 3 as a first author in highly rated journals, such as PLOs Pathogens and J. Virology. In 2011, I received my PhD in Molecular Biology with highest grades (Summa Cum Laude).

In 2013, I was awarded a 2-year fellowship from the Bayer-Humboldt Foundation to work as a researcher at the Heinrich Pette-Institute of Experimental Virology (HPI), Germany. I focused on mechanisms that govern the initiation of the adaptive immune response at the natural portal of entry of human viruses, such as the respiratory tract (influenza A virus, IAV) and the skin surface (Rift Valley Fever virus, RVFV), work that led to two publications, including a J. Immunology and one as a first author in the European J. of Immunology. ([…] Cruz JL, et al.,J Immunol, 2014; Cruz et al., Europ J Immunol, 2016).

In 2015, I joined the Wells Group at The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, were I was awarded with a 3-year UQ early career fellowship. My research was focused on the development of novel immunotherapies/vaccines for virally associated cancers by regulating the function of cytotoxic T-cells. In 2016, I was awarded with the 3-year UQ-postdoctoral fellowship. During my time at the institute I have received the UQ Travel Award (2016), the UQDI Early career Travel Award (2017) and the Keystone Symposium Travel Award (2017).

In 2019, I was awarded with a 3-year Garnet Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation co-joint grant with Prof. Christopher Perry at Princess Alexandra hospital. Currently, mentored by Professor Ian Frazer, I lead a collaboration project with the Technological University of Denmark and Princess Alexandra Hospital to develop a pipeline to de-risk the design and manufacture of personalized cancer immunotherapies. Our group will be the first in Australia to apply large-scale DNA barcode-labelled multimers and single cell sequencing to identify anti-tumour T-cells in patients with HPV16+/- Oropharyngeal Squamous Cell carcinoma (OPSCC), and test the efficacy of novel patient-specific vaccines containing tumour antigens known to mount an anti-tumour response.

In the last years, I have expanded my field of expertise to innate and adaptive/T-cell immunology, animal models to test immunotherapies and Head and Neck cancers, including HPV-related tumours, Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), particularly Oropharyngeal SCC (Cruz JL et al., Exp Dermatol, 2016; Cruz et al., Oncotarget, 2018). My recent work has led to a ground-breaking method based on flow-activated-cytometry sorting for the purification and characterization of a T-cell subset that regulates cytotoxic T-cell in the skin (Cruz JL et al., J Leukocyte Biology, 2017).

I successfully collaborate on interdisciplinary projects in Australia and overseas, including professional collaborations with Dr. Fiona Simpson (Translational Research Institute, Brisbane), with Dr. Roberta Mazzieri and Prof. Richardo Dolcetti (TRI, Brisbane), with Prof. Nicole La Gruta (Monash University, Melbourne), with A/Prof. Scott Byrne (Sydney Medical School), with Prof. Sine Reker Hadrup (National Veterinary Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen), with Juan Carlos Oliveros and Dr. Silvia Gutierrez (National Centre of Biotechnology, Madrid), and an industrial collaboration with Jingang and Vaxxas (Brisbane).

I am an active member of the scientific community at the University of Queensland participating as member of several committees, such as SBMS honours student, Educational training and UQDI BRF committees, and I externally contribute by acting as an expert in the evaluation of Spanish research projects.

I collaborate with Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF) acting as an awareness ambassador and I volunteer for Precious Paws Animal Rescue (PPAR) providing a home to dogs in need until they find their FURever family.