Shiv Pillai MD, PhD

Shiv Pillai is a Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard Medical School.  He studied medicine at Christian Medical College in Vellore, completed his PhD with Bimal Bacchawat, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow with David Baltimore at the Whitehead institute and MIT. He is the Program Director of an NIH-funded Autoimmune Center of Excellence at Massachusetts General Hospital,the Director of the Harvard Immunology PhD and Master’s in Medical Sciences Programs and of the HMS-HST MD student research program. He has been the recipient of a number of teaching awards at Harvard including the Irving M. London Award for Teaching, the Thomas McMahon Mentoring Award, and has been listed on Harvard Crimson’sProfessors of the Year. 

Dr. Pillai coined the term “surrogate light chains” for proteins that he identified as part of the pre-B receptor,that drives early B cell development. His laboratory postulated and provided evidence for the first ligand-independent signaling model during lymphocyte development and showed that BTK, the product of the gene mutated in X-linked agammaglobulinemia, is functionally linked to the pre-B receptor and the B cell receptor. Btk inhibitors are now widely used in lymphoid malignancies and autoimmunity.Apart from the pro-B to pre-B cell transition, his groupdeveloped the concept of the follicular versus marginal zone B lymphoid cell-fate decision, has recently identified a metabolic transitional to follicular B cell transition that is blocked in human common variable immunodeficiency, and identified a block in T follicular helper cell development in COVID-19 that prevents the formation of germinal centers. His laboratory has also linked cytotoxic CD4+T cells to endothelial cell apoptosis in systemic sclerosis and to mesenchymal cell apoptosis in IgG4-related disease, as a major step in the development of autoimmune fibrosis in these diseases

Dr. Pillai is the author of a monograph “Lymphocyte Development” and co-author with Abul Abbas and Andrew Lichtman of two widely used textbooks of immunology.


IIS lectures 2020

The Immunology of COVID-19:In this lecture I will provide an overview of the immunology of COVID-19 and the state of the field and then and place some emphasis on our own work addressing specific T cell subsets generated in lymph nodes and the spleen that infiltrate the lungs and contribute to pathogenesis.We will also address mechanisms by which both CD8+ T cell immunity and proper humoral immune responses, including germinal center formation, are crippled by SARS-CoV-2.

Approaches to Human Immunology: In this lecture I will describe modern technologies now being used in Human Immunology that are helping investigators in the field dissect the underlying basis of human disease. Interrogation of blood and disease tissues using newer imaging modalities, single cell approaches, the interrogation of chromatin states, the analysis of the metabolome and the microbiome will be discussed using examples.