• The Immunopharmacology Research Laboratory uses microbiological, immunological, cellular and molecular analyses to investigate the impact of host–pathogen and microbe-microbe interactions in the induction of immune suppression or inflammation in host tissue microenvironments. We focus on investigating mechanisms that modulate the immunological milieu in different tissue microenvironments particularly in tumors, the female genital tract and the gut. We also develop innovative antimicrobial activity assay platforms for screening natural product extracts. Our goal is to contribute to the current efforts in developing therapeutic and preventive strategies to control infectious diseases and inflammation-related carcinogenesis. The various research projects in our laboratory are funded by the Natural Sciences Research Institute and Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development Outright Grant program, the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs through the Balik PhD program and the RTI International and USAID through the Science Technology and Innovation for Development program.

  • Joyce A. Ibana, Ph.D. (Head)
    Associate Professor 3
    Ph.D. Microbiology and Immunology
    Reproductive Immunology, Host-Pathogen Interactions, Drug Discovery


    Ivan Imperial, M.D.
    Ph.D. Biology Student
    Sandra Jelyn Cutay
    MS Microbiology Student
    Maevel Romero
    MS Microbiology Student


    Michael Angelo Nicdao
    Ph.D. Biology Student
    Aaron Macauyag
    MS Microbiology Student
    Michael Palad
    MS Microbiology Student


    Fredmore Orosco
    Ph.D. Biology Student
    (Marine Science Institute)
    Francis Fontanilla
    MS Biology Student
    Ryan Pascual
    MS Biology Student
    (Frontier Lab, Osaka Univ.)
    Dominic Magan
    BS Biology Student


    Malem Flores
    MS Microbiology
    THESIS: “Diversity, Bioactivity, and Secondary Metabolite Profiles of Bacteria Isolated from Different Tissue of the Mollusk Gastropod Truncatellasp.
    John Clyde Co Soriano
    BS Biology
    THESIS:”Assessment of Antibiotic Susceptibility of Probiotic Lactobacillus Isolates from Philippine Food Products”
  • The Immunopharmacology Laboratory operates a microbiology laboratory at the Natural Sciences Research Institute, and operates Cell Biology, Immunology and Molecular Biology laboratories in a facility primarily based at the Institute of Biology. We also conduct experiments in our collaborators’ laboratories and core facilities at the College of Science, University of the Philippines, Diliman.

    Room 238 Natural Sciences Research Institute

    Room 363 Institute of Biology

    Student Achievements:

    Michael Angelo Nicdao
    First place – Best Research Poster Award
    19th Biological Sciences Graduate Congress
    December 12-14, 2014
    National University of Singapore

    John Clyde Co Soriano
    Best undergraduate thesis research finalist 2015
    Institute of Biology

    Malem Flores
    Most Outstanding MS Student 2015
    Institute of Biology
    • Microbe-microbe and host-microbe interactions in the gut

      The gut microenvironment harbors commensals and pathogenic microorganisms in a delicate balance. The perturbation of this balance through extended exposure to antibiotics or skewed dietary intake can cause diseases in the gut. We investigate the microbial interactions in the gut that could lead to pathogen exclusion by nutrient competition or metabolic interactions. We also examine the impact of probiotic microorganisms on colonic epithelial cell biology in vitro and inflammation-associated pathologies in vivo. Our goal is to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which the growth of beneficial microbes can be harnessed in order to maintain a healthy gut microenvironment.

    • Parallel mechanisms of immune suppression in the female reproductive tract and tumor microenvironment

      The female reproductive tract is a unique immunological microenvironment that has an exquisite mechanism that balances immune tolerance to semi-allogeneic embryo to support conception and immune protective mechanisms to ward off sexually transmitted infections. Central to this balance is the FRT’s cyclical dampening of CD8 cytolytic function during the secretory phase of menstruation and the recovery of cytolytic immune function during the proliferative phase. Interestingly, the tumor microenvironment has been shown to progressively exhibit immune suppression coinciding with cancer metastasis. We investigate mechanisms that induce immune suppression in the female genital tract that are also operant in tumor microenvironments. Our goal is to determine how the natural restoration of immune competence of cytolytic immune cells in the FRT during proliferative phase can be recapitulated in tumor microenvironments.

    • Harnessing microbial biodiversity for drug discovery

      The Philippines is a biodiversity hotspot for marine and terrestrial macro-organisms. We believe that we also have a very rich microbial biodiversity that can be a rich source of novel bioactive compounds. Our group employs cytotoxicity and antimicrobial assays that could test for cancer cell line as well as pathogen selectivity. We also develop cell and molecular biology assays for therapeutic targets in specific cell signaling pathways that are involved in inflammation and carcinogenesis. We collaborate with Molecular Biologists, Chemists and Bioinformaticians to develop an innovative drug discovery platform that minimizes the search space for discovering bioactive compounds.

    • Chlamydia trachomatis’ immune evasive mechanisms and impact on host cell biology

      Our laboratory strongly believes that along with translational research, we should always appreciate the importance of pursuing basic research. Thus, we investigate the host immune and cellular responses to Chlamydia trachomatis infection. C. trachomatis is an obligate intracellular bacterium that infects the columnar epithelial cells of the conjunctiva and the urogenital tract. We are interested in dissecting the mechanisms by which this bacterium can hijack host cell machineries to promote its survival. We are also fascinated by the plethora of immune evasive mechanisms that this bacterium exploits to persist in the human host. We believe that understanding these mechanisms will significantly provide important insights on the complexities of host-pathogen interactions that can be extended to other pathogens that manipulate the human host cell biology.


    • 2013-2014: Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development Outright Grant (OVCRD)
    • 2014-2015: Natural Sciences Research Institute (NSRI)
    • 2014–2018: Emerging Interdisciplinary Research Program (EIDR)
    • 2014- 2016: USAID-RTI International – Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development program
    • 2015–2016 Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs Balik PhD Program (OVPAA)
    • Sherchand SP, Ibana JA, Zea AH, Quayle AJ, Aiyar A. The High-Risk Human Papillomavirus E6 Oncogene Exacerbates the Negative Effect of Tryptophan Starvation on the Development of Chlamydia trachomatis.PLoS One. 2016 Sep 22;11(9):e0163174. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0163174. eCollection 2016.
    • Ibana, JA, Cutay SJ, Romero M, Schust DJ. Parallel expression of enzyme inhibitors of CD8 T cell function in tumor microenvironments and secretory endometrium. Reproductive Sciences 2015 (in press).
    • Ibana JA, Myers L, Porretta C, Lewis M, Taylor SN, Martin DH, Quayle AJ. 2012. The major CD8 T cell effector memory subset in the normal and C. trachomatis-infected human endocervix is low in perforin. BMC Immunology 13:(6).
    • Ibana JA, Aiyar A, Quayle AJ, Schust DJ. 2012. Modulation of MICA on the surface of Chlamydia trachomatis-infected endocervical epithelial cells promotes NK cell-mediated killing. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol 65(1):32-42.
    • Ibana JA, Belland RJ, Zea AH, Schust DJ, Nagamatsu T, AbdelRahman YM, Tate DJ, Beatty WL, Aiyar AA, Quayle AJ. 2011. Inhibition of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase activity by levo-1-methyl tryptophan blocks gamma interferon-induced Chlamydia trachomatis persistence in human epithelial cells. Infect Immun 79(11):4425-37.
    • Ibana JA, Schust DJ, Sugimoto J, Nagamatsu T, Greene SJ, Quayle A. 2011. Chlamydia trachomatis immune evasion via downregulation of MHC class I surface expression involves direct and indirect mechanisms. Infect Dis Obstet Gynecol. 420905. Epub 2011 May 29.
    • Ficarra M, Ibana JS, Poretta C, Ma L, Myers L, Taylor SN, Greene S, Smith B, Hagensee M, Martin DH, Quayle AJ. 2008. A Distinct Cellular Profile Is Seen in the Human EndocervixDuring Chlamydia trachomatis Infection. Am J ReprodImmunol 60(5):415‐25.
    • Kawana K, Quayle AJ, Ficarra M, Ibana JA, Shen L, Kawana Y, Yang H, Marrero L, Yavagal S, Greene SJ, Zhang YX, Pyles RB, Blumberg RS, Schust DJ. 2007. CD1d degradation in Chlamydia trachomatis-infected epithelial cells is the result of both cellular and chlamydial proteasomal activity. J BiolChem 282(10):7368‐75.
    • David MP, Asprer JJ, Ibana JS, Concepcion GP, Padlan EA. 2007. A study of the structural correlates of affinity maturation: antibody affinity as a function of chemical interactions, structural plasticity and stability. MolImmunol 44(6):1342‐51.
    • Lazaro JE, Nitcheu J, Mahmoudi N, Ibana JA, Mangalindan GC, Black GP, Howard‐Jones AG, Moore CG, Thomas DA, Mazier D, Ireland CM, Concepcion GP, Murphy PJ, Diquet B. 2006. Antimalarial activity of crambescidin 800 and synthetic analogues against liver and blood stage of Plasmodium sp. J Antibiot 59(9):583‐90.
    • Schust DJ, Ibana JA*, Buckner LR, Ficarra M, Sugimoto J, Amedee AM, Quayle AJ. 2012. Potential Mechanisms for Increased HIV-1 Transmission Across the Endocervical Epithelium During C. trachomatis Infection. Curr HIV Res 10(3):218-27. Review (*Co-first author)
    • Caesar G, Ibana J, Kei Kawana K, Quayle AJ, Schust DJ. Host-pathogen co-evolution: Chlamydia trachomatis modulates surface ligand expression in genital epithelial cells to evade immune recognition. In Prof Mihai Mares (ed) Chlamydia, In Tech Publishers, 2012.
    • Ibana JA and Schust DJ. Chapter 86: Chlamydia trachomatis. In Winn HN, Chervenak FC, and Romero R (eds), Clinical Maternal Fetal Medicine Online Second Edition, Informa Healthcare, London, 2012.
    • Ibana JA Finding my niche in Science In Padlan, E. Saloma, C and Concepcion G. (eds.) Selected Essays on Science and Technology for Securing a Better Philippines, University of the Philippine Press, 2009