Susan M. Kaech, Ph.D.

Professor and Director, NOMIS Center for Immunobiology & Microbial Pathogenesis, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Dr. Kaech is a Salk Institute Professor, Director of the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, and holder of the NOMIS Chair. Prior to this she was a Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor at Yale University in the Department of Immunobiology (2004–2018). Dr. Kaech did her postdoctoral work with Dr. Rafi Ahmed at Emory University (1999–2004) and received her Ph.D. in Developmental Biology at Stanford University. She received her B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Washington.

Dr. Kaech aims to understand how memory T cells are produced during infection and vaccination, how they function and why in some particular cases, they fail to induce long-term immunity. Her lab has been a leader in using genetic and molecular tools to identify the genes and signaling molecules involved in generating two specific types of memory T cells, CD4 and CD8, from precursor cells during both acute and chronic viral infections. Her lab has made several notable discoveries in elucidating how and when memory T cells form following infection or vaccination.

Dr. Kaech is also interested in how T cells and macrophages are metabolically regulated, and how their differentiation and function can be altered by nutrient availability during infection and in tumors. In particular, she seeks to learn how T cell behavior is suppressed by tumors, in order to create better therapies for cancer using the body’s own immune system—an innovative and rapidly moving field called cancer immunotherapy. Her lab also investigates the impacts of infection on the remodeling of immune cells, specifically brain-resident memory T cells, and the mechanisms by which these cells promote age related inflammation and the advancement of neurodegenerative disease.

Dr. Kaech has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Damon Runyon–Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fellowship (1999), the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences (2003), the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) (2007) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist (2009) and was elected as an AAAS Fellow in 2020. She was also elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2023 and serves on the AAI council, which serves as the largest and most influential organization to advance the knowledge of immunology and medical research in the country.

Dr. Kaech also serves on the advisory boards of the Pew-Stewart Scholars for Cancer Research, Cancer Research Institute, MidWinter Immunology Conference, Kern Lipid Conference, Pelotonia Institute forImmuno- Oncology at Ohio State University, Gladstone Institute, Vanderbilt Institute for infection, immunology and inflammation (VI4), as well as EvolveImmune Therapeutics, Simcha Therapeutics, Arvinas, Affini-T, Pfizer Emerging Science & Innovation, and is an academic editor of the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Funded Research

These projects were made possible from Cure Alzheimer's Fund support.