Our Team

Lena Serghides, PhD

Principal Investigator, University Health Network
Assistant Professor, University of Toronto

Dr. Serghides is a Senior Scientist at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute at the University Health Network and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Immunology and the Institute of Medical Sciences at the University of Toronto.

Her current research focus is on understanding the mechanisms that contribute to the increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes in women with HIV, and on the long-term effects of in utero exposure to HIV antiretrovirals.  The research is motivated by the goal of optimizing maternal and infant health in the context of infections of global health importance.

Dr. Serghides is a member of the CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network (CTN) Women’s Working Group, and a member of the Canadian Infant Feeding in HIV Network (CIFHN).


CURRENT MEMBERS

Caroline Dunk, PhD

Scientific Associate III, University Health Network

I took my PhD at the University of Birmingham studying the role of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Family (VEGF) in placental development. For my Post Doc fellowship, I moved to Toronto to join Dr. Stephen J Lye’s laboratory at the Lunenfeld Tanenbaum Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital. I spent a happy 20 years there as a Research Associate leading the placental research group. My expertise is in the cellular, endocrinological and immunological interactions of the maternal-fetal interface of early pregnancy. I have developed numerous models of the early placenta including the novel placental-decidual coculture model that identified the role of the decidual NK cells and macrophage in the initiation of uterine vascular remodelling.

In Jan 2021 I joined the Serghides lab to further my research into translational clinical work focusing on the effects of antiretroviral therapy and HIV on placental development and maternal decidual immunology. I am an active member of the placental research community and collaborate both nationally and internationally. I have published 60 peer-reviewed publications including 8 invited chapters to special issues and textbooks on placental angiogenesis and development. I am also a founding member of the Research Centre for Women’s and Infants Health placental biobank.

I love living in Canada and get out into the wilderness camping and paddling with my family as often as I can.

Haneesha Mohan, PhD

Scientific Research Associate, University Health Network

Dr. Haneesha Mohan is a Scientific Research Associate at the University Health Network. She was previously a Postdoctoral Research Fellow under Dr. Lena Serghides’s supervision. She received a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Fellowship Award and a CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network (CTN) Postdoctoral Fellowship Award.

Haneesha earned her Bachelor of Life Science (Hons.) degree in Life Sciences with a Minor in Health Geography at McMaster University. She then pursued her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan in Integrative Neuroendocrinology.

Rabia Anwar, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University Health Network

Dr. Rabia Anwar is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Serghides lab. She completed her PhD from Humboldt University of Berlin and conducted her research at the Max Delbruck Centre for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany.

She has more than 5 years of experience conducting human placental research and pregnancy-related disorders. Currently, her work is focused on identifying the impact of COVID-19 on pregnancy, especially on birth and placental outcomes and associations with race. The results of this study will shed light on the mechanisms underlying race inequalities in relation to poor pregnancy and placenta outcomes in pregnant women infected with SARS-CoV-2. 

Shreya Dhume, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University Health Network

Dr. Shreya Dhume is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Serghides lab (University Health Network and University of Toronto) and joined our team in July 2022. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Manitoba with a specialization in synaptic physiology and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Currently, her work focuses on understanding the neurodevelopmental outcomes of HIV-uninfected but exposed children after in-utero exposure to antiretroviral drugs. She plans on conducting this research through primary mouse neuronal cultures and assessing the effects on neurotoxicity, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial function.

Adriana Zutic

Ph.D. Student, University of Toronto (2024 – present)

Adriana Zutic is a 1st year Ph.D. student in Fundamental Immunology at the University of Toronto. She completed her H.BSc. in Biological Sciences with a minor in Biochemistry at the University of Windsor. Her research interests lie in investigating the immunology of the female reproductive tract, particularly focusing on the inflammatory mechanisms driving pathology.

Adriana’s project broadly aims to examine the impact of different antiretroviral classes on the expression and activity of nutrient transporters in the placenta during pregnancy, focusing specifically on glucose, amino acid, and fatty acid transport. Outside of the lab, she enjoys baking, trying out new coffee shops, and travelling. 

Camille Blanco

M.Sc. Candidate, University of Toronto (2021 – present)

Camille Blanco is a second-year M.Sc. candidate with the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. She completed her H.BSc. in Biology with a specialization in health sciences and a minor in Philosophy at Trent University.

Camille is interested in research exploring the complex mechanisms of inflammation associated with disease and current therapies. She is currently studying ROS-related pathways in response to an integrase-strand transfer inhibitor used in antiretroviral therapy using a murine model. Outside of the lab, she enjoys basketball and has played competitively for many years.

Sebastian Acosta

M.Sc. Candidate, University of Toronto (2021 – present)

Sebastian Acosta is a second-year M.Sc. candidate at the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. He also graduated with an H.BSc. in Neuroscience and Immunology from the University of Toronto. His research interests include understanding how HIV antiretroviral exposure during pregnancy affects pregnancy outcomes and the effect of in-utero exposure to antiretroviral therapy on fetal development and neurocognitive function.

His current project is an evaluation of many currently used integrase inhibitors (Dolutegravir, Raltegravir, Bictegravir) to investigate their effects on early gestational events in a mouse model and to provide mechanistic insight into the observed adverse birth outcomes. Outside of the lab, Sebastian enjoys both playing and watching sports.

Sabrina Rasna

M.Sc. Candidate, University of Toronto (2022 – present)

Sabrina Rasna is a second-year M.Sc. candidate with the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. She completed her H.BSc. at Queen’s University in a Biotechnology specialization. Previously, she was a project student for two summers in the Serghides Lab.

Sabrina’s project, under the co-supervision of Dr. Serghides and Dr. Reina Bendayan, explores the effects of HIV and antiretroviral use on amino acid transport in the placenta during pregnancy. Outside of the lab, she enjoys weightlifting, case competitions and playing video games.

Julia Grochola

M.Sc. Candidate, University of Toronto (2022 – present)

Julia Grochola has been a project student in the Serghides lab since September 2021. She has completed her H.BSc. at the University of Toronto with a specialization in Health and Disease and a minor in Immunology.

Currently, Julia Grochola is a second-year M.Sc. candidate with the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. Julia’s project focuses on examining how antiretroviral therapy affects pregnancy. She is specifically focused on investigating the impact of antiretroviral use on placental structure and morphology and the dysregulation of angiogenesis. Outside of lab, Julia enjoys travelling and being out in nature.

Spencer Brooks

Undergraduate Project Student, University of Toronto (2023 – present)

Spencer is a 4th-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, pursuing a double major in Immunology and Biochemistry with a minor in Psychology. 

Spencer works under the co-supervision of Dr. Serghides and Dr. Dunk to characterize the impact of antiretroviral drug use during pregnancy on testes morphology in F1 mice.

Outside of the lab, they enjoy swimming, playing bass, and tearing up the streets of Kirby Air Ride.

Kaitlin Chen

Undergraduate Project Student, University of Toronto (2023 – present)

Kaitlin Chen is a 4th-year undergraduate project student at the University of Toronto, double-majoring in Physiology and Immunology. She is currently working with M.Sc. Candidate Michelle Ranjbar on an HIV mouse model utilizing the virus EcoHIV.

In her spare time, she loves to draw digitally and traditionally as well as play piano.

Sam Soriano

Undergraduate Project Student, University of Toronto (2023 – present)

Sam is a 3rd-year undergraduate student double majoring in Immunology and Health & Disease at UofT.

He is currently working with Dr. Caroline Dunk and M.Sc. Candidate Sebastian Acosta on elucidating how antiretroviral treatments during pregnancy affect early placentation and gestational events.

Outside of academia, he pursues different creative endeavours and loves to watch sitcoms.

ALUMNI

Nicole Banko, former Laboratory Technician

Monica Guzman, PhD, former Lab Manager & Research Scientist

Lindsey Ure, BSc, former Technical Research Associate, now a Graduate Student at the University of Ottawa

Syerra Richards, BSc, former Research Trainee

GRADUATE STUDENTS

Valeriya Dontsova, MSc (2020-2023), former Research Assistant

Ingrid Hsieh, MSc (2022-2023)

POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS

Hakimeh Mohammadi, PhD (2013-2015), holds the position of Manager QC Microbiology & EM Testing, at Sanofi Pasteur

Eszter Papp, PhD (2011-2014), now has a position in the Family Medicine Department of the School of Medicine, at Queen’s University

Kayode A Balogun PhD (2015-2019), now holds positions at the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and the University of Saskatchewan

Smriti Kala, PhD (2015-2020), now holds the position of Product Applications Scientist at Fluidigm Corporation

Ambalika Sarkar, PhD (2018-2020), former Postdoctoral Research Fellow

FORMER UNDERGRADUATE TRAINEES

Ashumi Doshi, is a former Summer Student

Maisha Fahmida, is a former Summer Student

Evelyn Laurette, is a former Co-op student

Ben Mackenzie, is a former Research Assistant

Ksenia Meteleva, is now a Graduate Student at the University of Toronto

Jessica Nguyen, is now a Graduate Student at the University of Toronto

Tanvi Sanghvi, is a former Summer Student & Project Student

Oscar Tejada, is now a Graduate Student at the University of Calgary

Audrey Yee, is now an MD candidate at St. George’s University

Christian Singh, is now an MD candidate at the University of Toronto

Muhammad Amjad, is a former Summer Student

Tumi Olaoye, is a former Summer Student

Katherine Dibbon, is a former Amgen Scholars Summer Student

Annika Sivak, is a former Summer Student

Romane Poiron, is a former Summer Exchange Student from France

Zoe Lazaris, is a former Project Student