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O'Konek, Jessica, PhD, Research Investigator

4041 BSRB
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2200
Phone: 734-615-2207
Email: jjoz@umich.edu

Jessica Konek, Ph.D., is a Research Investigator in the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences (MNIMBS) and the Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center at the University of Michigan.  She earned her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan in 2008. Dr. O’Konek completed postdoctoral training in the Vaccine Branch of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health where she specialized in immunology and vaccine development.  During her postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Jay Berzofsky, she identified a new subset of Natural Killer T lymphocytes and characterized vaccine-based approaches to activate this particular cell type to induce anti-tumor immune responses.  In 2012, Dr. O’Konek joined MNIMBS where she studies innate immune activation by nanoemulsion vaccine adjuvants.  Her research has focused on the development of vaccines for bacterial and viral pathogens and on the determination of the immunological mechanisms of action of these adjuvants.  Her current research focuses on utilizing a vaccine-based approach to modulate food allergy immune responses. She also is interested in the development of animal models for food allergy in order to further characterize the immunological pathways involved in food allergy and anaphylaxis.  Her long term goals are to further the understanding of the immune pathways that mediate food allergy in order to develop new therapies to both treat and prevent the development of allergic hypersensitivity to foods.

Representative Publications: 

O’Konek JJ, Ladd B, Flanagan SA, Im MM, Boucher PD, Thepsourinthone, TS, Secrist JA, Shewach, DS. Alteration of the carbohydrate for deoxyguanosine analogs markedly changes DNA replication fidelity, cell cycle progression and cytotoxicity. Mutat Res, 2010 Feb 3;684:1-10.  PMCID: PMC3038579

O’Konek JJ, Illarionov P, Stewart Khursigara D, Ambrosino E, Izhak L, Castillo BF, Raju R, Khalili M, Kim HY, Howell AR, Besra GS, Porcelli SA, Berzofsky JA, Terabe M.  Mouse and human iNKT cell agonist, β-mannosylceramide, reveals a distinct mechanism of tumor immunity. J Clin Invest, 2011 Feb;121(2):683-94. PMCID:  PMC3026717

Ladd B*, O’Konek JJ*, Ostruszka LJ and Shewach DS.  Unrepairable DNA double strand breaks initiate cytotoxicity with HSV-TK/ganciclovirCancer Gene Therapy, 2011 Oct;18(10):751-9. PMCID: PMC3176965
(*, equal contribution)

Izhak L, Ambrosino E, Kato S, Parish ST, O’Konek JJ, Weber H, Xia Z, Venzon D, Berzofsky JA, Terabe M.  Delicate balance among three types of T cells in concurrent regulation of tumor immunity. Cancer Research, 2013 Mar 1;73(5):1514-23. PMCID: PMC3622595

O’Konek JJ, Kato S, Takao S, Izhak L, Xia Z, Illarionov P, Besra GS, Terabe M, Berzofsky JA. β–mannosylceramide activates type I natural killerT cells to induce tumor immunity without inducing long-term functional anergy. Clinical Cancer Research, 2013 Aug 15;19(16):4404-11. PMCID: PMC3819527

Passmore C, Makidon PE, O'Konek JJ, Zahn JA, Pannu J, Hamouda T, Bitko V, Myc A, Lukacs NW, Fattom A, Baker JR Jr. Intranasal immunization with W 80 5EC adjuvanted recombinant RSV rF-ptn enhances clearance of respiratory syncytial virus in a mouse model.  Human Vaccines and Immunotheapeutics, 2014 Mar 10;10(3):615-22. PMCID: PMC4130273

Wong PT, Leroueil PR, Smith DM, Ciotti S, Bielinska AU, Janczak KW, Mullen CH, Groom II JV, Taylor EM, Passmore, C, Makidon PE,  O'Konek JJ, Myc A, Hamouda T, Baker JR Jr. Formulation, high throughput in vitro screening and in vivo functional characterization of nanoemulsion-based intransal vaccine adjuvantsPlos One, 2015 May 10(5): e0126120. PMCID: PMC4427474

O'Konek JJ, Makidon PE, Landers JJ, Hamouda T, Bitko V, Ciotti S, Lukacs NW, Fattom A, Wojcinski ZW,  Baker JR Jr. Intranasal nanoemulsion-based inactivated respiratory syncytial virus vaccines protect against viral challenge in cotton ratsHum Vaccin Immunother, 2015 11(2): 2904-12. PMID: 26307915