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Maria discusses her project and benefits she has drawn from her experience so far as an Oxford-BMS Fellow.

What is your research background?

Maria Barbanti

I started to be involved in clinical research projects since my last year of medical school at San Raffaele Hospital in Milan (Italy) and I continued throughout the years of specialty training in Haematology, which I completed in 2021. The projects I worked on focused on several Haematology-related topics, such as new technologies for early diagnosis of infectious complications in high-risk haematological patients, the role of microbiome in the allogeneic stem cell transplant setting, and factors predicting post-allogeneic stem cell transplant relapse in lymphoma patients.

What are you researching now?

Over the years of clinical training, I developed a vivid interest in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), allogeneic stem cell transplant (allo-SCT) and cellular therapy. Since I started my Oxford-BMS fellowship in the Vyas lab (March 2022) I worked on a project focusing on the immune control operated by the allogeneic stem and immune cell transplant on cancer cells in AML patients. The aim is to identify target-specific anti-leukemic T cell responses in order to monitor their kinetics and make correlations with disease response.

What has your experience of this Fellowship been like?

The Oxford-BMS fellowship has given me the great opportunity to pursue my DPhil in Oxford. The joint meetings with my PI and BMS mentor made me appreciate similarities and differences in research perspectives from the academia and industry standpoints. Despite being at the early stages of my fellowship, the liaison with BMS has been an asset in the experimental work planning.

What are your aspirations for the future of this research?

Discovering and characterising target specific anti-leukemic immune responses is a fundamental step in the understanding of the mechanisms of disease control operated by the transplanted immune system. I hope the identification of putative targets and the characterisation of their cognate T cell responses will lead to the establishment of a new cellular therapy and refined criteria for donor selection.