Cristhian Ildefonso, PhD

Cristhian J. Ildefonso, PhD, was born in Puerto Rico. He obtained a BSc degree from the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras with a double major in biology and chemistry. As a member of the MARC U*STAR Program at the University of Puerto Rico, he studied the effect of opioids on murine macrophages. In 2005, he joined the inaugural class of the new Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine Program at Baylor College of Medicine. Under the mentorship of Drs. Richard L. Hurwitz and Catherine M. Bollard, he characterized the immune response against an adenoviral vector delivered intravitreally in retinoblastoma patients. He also studied the influence of the intraocular environment on viral vector-mediated transgene expression. This work was funded by a National Research Service Award fellowship from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. After completing his doctoral studies in 2011, Dr. Ildefonso joined the laboratory of Dr. Alfred S. Lewin to conduct his postdoctoral studies. During his tenure in Dr. Lewin’s laboratory, Dr. Ildefonso developed and characterized several anti-inflammatory genes of eukaryotic or viral origin that can be delivered by an AAV vector. He also developed genes and artificial miRNAs that control the NRF2 signaling pathway and therefore promote the expression of antioxidant genes. He tested these vectors in models of ocular diseases, such as uveitis and geographic atrophy. In 2013, he was awarded the ARVO/Genentech AMD Research Fellowship in the AMD Translational Research category. In 2016, Dr. Ildefonso joined the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Florida as an Assistant Professor and has a joint appointment in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology of the same Institution. His research focuses on understanding the role of inflammation in retinal degenerative diseases and seeks to target inflammatory pathways in these diseases using gene therapy.