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Acteria Doctoral prize in Immunology

Dr. Ai Ing Lim

France, SFI. PhD 2017 " Cytokine Control of Human Innate Lymphoid Cells Development and Function"

Ai Ing Lim is originally from Malaysia. She received her MPhil from the University of Hong Kong in 2012. As European Union Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow, she conducted her doctoral studies at Institut Pasteur (Paris) under the mentorship of Prof. James Di Santo. Her dissertation explored human innate lymphoid cells (ILC) biology and published in several journals as first author, including Cell, Journal of Experimental Medicine, European Journal of Immunology etc. Her contribution has been well recognized by scientific community and awarded as International Rising Talent by L’Oréal-UNESCO Foundation in 2018.

During her PhD, Ai Ing’s research focused on understanding how cytokines control human innate lymphoid cells (ILC) development and function.  First, she found human ILC2 exhibit functional plasticity driven by IL-12 signaling. Second, she identified human ILC precursors from fetal liver, cord and adult blood, as well as lymphoid and peripheral tissues. Using in vitro cloning and in vivo transfer approaches, she found IL-1β is an important cytokine for the expansion of ILC precursors and/or differentiation into mature NK cells, ILC1, ILC2 and ILC3 subsets. This ‘ILC-poiesis’ model, where circulating ILC precursors migrate into tissues and differentiate to mature ILC subsets under the influences of local environment, challenged the dogma that ILC are originated from bone marrow and fetal liver. The discovery of circulating ILC precursors coupled with robust in vitro system for ILC differentiation opens the path to future ILC therapy.

Supported by Human Frontier Science Program, Ai Ing is current a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Yasmine Belkaid’s lab, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in USA. She is trying to understand the microbial-driven maternal-fetal immune crosstalk.