Torbett Laboratory

Lab News

Dr. Johanna Heideker Joins Torbett Laboratory (November 9, 2018)

Dr. Christine Johanna Heideker, a molecular biologist, has joined the Torbett Laboratory as a Staff Scientist.

Johanna brings to Torbett Laboratory more than 12 years of experience in protein expression and purification and cellular signaling. She will be responsible in generating protein expression vectors for both bacterial and eukaryotic systems, to generate and purify proteins, and undertake and run mass spectometry experiments for core and research studies of the University of California San Diego Center for AIDS Research (USCD CFAR).

Johanna hopes to become involved in a broad range of activities and initiatives at Torbett Laboratory and UCSD CFAR.

johanna Johanna began her cientific research career in 2011 as a Postdoctoral Associate at Genentech, Inc. in South San Francisco. From there she moved back to San Diego where she joined forces as a Research Scientist at a small cancer vaccine startup company (ImmunoActiva) in 2016. Before joining Scripps Research, Johanna served as Scientist II for ThermoFisher Lifesciences. At ThermoFisher, she performed large scale protein purification for global sales.

Johanna earned a Diploma in Structural Biology from the University of Wurzburg in Germany and a Ph.D. in Biology from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

Johanna, a native of Germany, enjoys spending her free time on staying on top of the scientific literature, mentoring younger scientists, and attending local art events.

Torbett Laboratory Welcomes UCSD Student Interns (October 22, 2018)

The Torbett Laboratory is pleased to welcome two student interns from the University of California San Diego (UCSD). The student interns will undergo closely supervised training to help develop their professional skills and gain hands-on experience which advances scientific careers.

Isabel Mendoza

Isabel Mendoza is a junior at UCSD working towards a B.S. in Physiology and Neuroscience. Before joining Scripps Research, Isabel served at the California National Primate Research Center as summer research intern and helped in performing experiments for projects studying the Zika virus. She was also previously employed at The Scripps Research Institute from November 2017 to June 2018 as an undergraduate research intern through the UCSD Work Study Program.

At UCSD, Isabel holds the positions of Vice President of Scholarship for the Junior Panhellenic Council and Assistant Director of Membership Education within her sorority, Phi Sigma Rho. She is also active in planning and organizing social events and community service projects.

After completing her degree, she plans to attend veterinary school and earn her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. In her spare time, she likes to practice Brazilian jiu jitsu and work on her photography skills.

Hannah Finnegan

Hannah Finnegan is a third year student currently pursuing a B.S. in Human Biology at UCSD. Prior to joining Scripps Research, Hannah served as a student intern at the Motwani Lasik Institute and as a volunteer at Valley Children's Hospital.

Hannah is also a licensed EMT. She intends to pursue a Physician's Assistant school after completing her bachelor's degree. In her free time, Hannah enjoys hiking and spending time at the beach.

Torbett Lab, UCSD, TSRI Florida, and VMRF Working with a New Research Grant from NIH (October 1, 2018)

Dr. Bruce Torbett, Associate Professor of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), has received a subaward from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the University of California San Diego (UCSD).

The three-year grant will help fund the project entitled, "Opioid Impacts on T-cell Pathways and Epigenetics to Modulate HIV Integration, Latency and Reservoirs." The project is designed in a two-stage process (R61/R63) to tease out the mechanisms of how opioids impact cellular receptor signaling for opioids, cellular co-receptors for HIV, epigenetic control (chromatin packing and methylation), and gene expression. It will also determine how these processes impact HIV replication, integration and latency.

Dr. David Smith of the UCSD School of Medicine is the Principal Investigator of the project. Other Co-Investigators on the grant include Dr. Laura Bohn of TSRI Florida and Dr. Celsa Spina of Veterans Medical Research Foundation (VMRF). Dr. Nadejda Beliakova-Bethell of VMRF, Dr. David Gorkin of UCSD School of Medicine, and Dr. Amalio Telenti of TSRI California are also named as key personnel.

The Torbett Laboratory's expertise will be provided in evaluating morphine like-agonists and their effect on CD4T cells and macrophages HIV infection, latency and viral persistence in collaboration with Drs. Bohn and Spina. The Torbett group's experience in HIV sequencing and informatics to evaluate HIV populations from the "final gift" patient cohort will also be utilized. Furthermore, Dr. Torbett will utilize novel RTs to generate full-length cDNAs from patient HIV samples to address whether there is genetic evolution of individual viruses within the viral population of HIV-infected patients before and during opioid use.

The Torbett Laboratory Welcomes New Postdoctoral Associate (September 4, 2018)

The Torbett Laboratory welcomes Shentian Zhuang, a Beijing native and a recent Ph.D. graduate from Peking University in China. Shentian's thesis studies in Prof. Chu Wang's lab focused on developing chemoproteomic strategies that use photo-affinity probes in combination with quantitative proteomics for large-scale profiling of Bile acids (BAs)-interacting proteins in both mammalian cells and bacteria. The studies better informed the field on BA's regulatory roles in human physiology and diseases.

Shentian's Scripps Resesarch fellowship studies, in collaboration with HIVE Center members, are focused on the identification and characterization of host proteins involved in HIV-1 Gag assembly and trafficking. She will develop chemical proteomics strategies to study metabolite-protein and protein-protein interactions in HIV infected and myeloid cell as well.

In her free time, Shentian enjoys watching movies, listening to music, and bein an innovative chef.


Geraldine Goebrecht Receives Training Grant from National Institutes of Health (September 3, 2018)

Geraldine Goebrecht recently received a four-year training grant (F30) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in support of a research project entitled, "Lymph node-targeted delivery of HIV vaccine candidates." The grant will provide funds for her tuition and fees, stipend, and an institutional allowance.

Geraldine's work in the Torbett Laboratory now focuses on tracking the HIV capsid core as it moves towards and docks at the nuclear pore. Using SuFEx chemistry, developed by the Barry Sharpless group, she looks to establish a novel labeling strategy for HIV capsid allowing for the detailed visualization of core degradation.

To further characterize the completeness of capsid cores able to facilitate infection, she has designed cell lines capable of inducibly and reversibly halting nuclear entry. By controlling HIV's entry into the nucleus, she will be able to assess those capsid structures poised to enable integration in too the host genome.

Geraldine has been in the Torbett Laboratory as a Graduate Student since May 2018. She is currently working on her doctoral degree in Biology through the Scripps Research Institute's Skaggs Graduate Program. Upon completion of her doctorate, she will return to the UC San Diego School of Medicine to complete her medical training through the Medical Scientist Training Program.

Graduate Student Christian Gallardo Receives 2018 Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation Fellowship Award (September 2, 2018)

Christian Gallardo, Graduate Student of Scripps Research Graduate Program, has received the 2018 Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation Fellowship Award.

The award recognizes Christian whose work focuses on the development and application of sequencing technologies in vivo HIV viral evolution.

Christian has been a member of the Torbett Laboratory since 2015.

Former Torbett Lab Research Intern Joins Duke Center for Neurodegeneration and Neurotherapeutics (September 1, 2018)

Craig Chen, a former Research Intern in the Torbett Laboratory, has taken a position as a Research Assistant at the Duke Center for Neurodegeneration and Neurotherapeutics. His current work focuses on the development of a palliative drug to treat HD and Parkinson's patients. 

Craig joined the Torbett laboratory in June 2017 and worked on gene delivery strategies and lentiviral vectors before moving to Duke University in September 2018. Craig is also currently enrolled at Duke University, taking dual major in Biomedical Engineering and Finance.

His other interests include pursuing vaccine and antiobiotic development research and playing musical instruments.

Craig Chen from Bishop H.S. is interning in the lab summer 2017.  Way to go Craig for wearing a lab coat instead of flip flops this summer.  Happy to have you.


Stosh Ozog, M.D./Ph.D. Graduate Student, received a F30 Fellowship from the NHLBI in April 2017 to support his Ph.D. graduate studies and medical education.

Theresa Sample, Ph.D., a former TSRI Fellow (2010-2017), has taken a position at Ionis Pharmaceuticals as a Technical Writer.

Nina Timberlake, Ph.D., a former TSRI Fellow (2015-2016), has taken a position at Poseida Therapeutics as a Research Scientist and will undertake studies in gene delivery.



Department of Immunology and Microbiology

The Scripps Research Institute

Director, Molecular Basis of Viral Pathogenesis Training Grant

Director, CFAR Protein Expression and Proteomics (PEP) Core

Co-Director, HIV Interaction and Viral Evolution (HIVE) Center

Co-Director, UCSD Center for AIDS Research (CFAR)


10550 North Torrey Pines Road, MEM-131
La Jolla, CA 92037
Phone: (858) 784-9123
FAX: (858) 784-7714