For her PhD in Biology at Weizmann’s Department of Immunology, Biana Bernshtein advanced our understanding of gut homeostasis and what underlies its breakdown in colitis. She continues researching mucosal immunology for her postdoctoral project at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT, and Harvard, focusing this time on improving the currently available vaccine against Rotavirus infection, a devastating enteropathogen that causes pediatric acute gastroenteritis worldwide.
Although the vaccine is considered highly effective, it continues to fail to provide protection in young children in developing countries. Dr. Bernshtein will study samples from young vaccinated children, comparing the antibody profiles of those who were protected with those that became infected. Next she will try to define the mechanisms by which antibodies confer protection in the guts of challenged mice. She hopes her studies will guide next-generation Rotavirus vaccine improvements as well as expand our understanding of the role of antibodies in guiding innate immune function in the gut, paving the way to developing vaccines against other infectious diseases.
Called “an educator at heart,” Dr. Bernshtein has been involved in teaching science education students at Weizmann both at the Feinberg Graduate School and at the Davidson Institute of Science Education, Weizmann’s educational arm, where she taught gifted children.