Our People

Our People

Oliver Garden's team comprises clinical and research staff, including veterinarians, doctoral candidates, post-doctoral fellows, research assistants, interns, residents, and students.

Meet the current members of the Oliver Garden team.

Current Staff

  • Dr. Jie Luo
    • Jie Luo PhD, Oliver Garden Lab, Penn VetLuo graduated from the Beijing Normal University in 1993 with a degree in Biochemistry and continued to then receive a masters in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From 1996 to 1999 he completed a PhD program in Molecular Biology at the Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
    • Luo has an interest and expertise in autoimmune disease, in particular myasthenia gravis, in which he has made several ground-breaking discoveries over the past decade. Luo hails from Dr. Jon Lindstrom’s lab at the Perelman School of Medicine and has an interest in advancing this work into clinical patients (dogs) with myasthenia gravis, with the aim of developing novel antigen-specific immunotherapies for both canine and human patients.
    • A longstanding goal of his research has been to try to better understand pathological mechanism behind autoimmune diseases like myasthenia gravis (MG) and eventually discover curative treatments for them. Autoimmune diseases happen when the body's immune system turns against itself, attacking as if it were a foreign pathogen. A key challenge to developing therapies for autoimmune diseases is maintaining the balance between resistance and tolerance within a host while inhibiting adverse immune response. Luo believes that the answer to this challenge lies in the specificity of the therapies.

      Many attempts to specifically suppress EAMG used recombinant fragments or peptides derived from the extracellular portion of AChR. This was based on an assumption that antigen-specific immunosuppression of an autoimmune disease requires the use of disease-inducing epitopes. Therefore, it is thought that the antigen-specific approach has insurmountable obstacles. Luo's research contributes to this endeavor by providing a novel approach to antigen-specific immunotherapy for EAMG that successfully circumvents these problems by suppressing EAMG with a vaccine consisting of the cytoplasmic domains of human muscle AChR subunits. This approach not only enables antigen-specifically immunosuppressing the autoimmune response to AChRs more effectively and safely than otherwise possible, but also lights a new path towards antigen-specific immunotherapies for many autoimmune diseases in which autoantigens are transmembrane proteins. Ongoing works are addressing the mechanisms by which this therapy works and translating rodent studies into a spontaneous large animal model that recapitulates the human disease. These will provide a proof-of-principle that will inform and accelerate human clinical trials.
    • In his spare time, Luo enjoys (in his words) “.. troubleshooting and fixing complex mechanical problems for a wide range of devices, such as watches, appliances, and even cars.” He says: “Unfortunately, so far organisms remain the most difficult to troubleshoot and fix!”
  • Ms. Julia Ying Wu
    • Julia Ying WuJulia graduated from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in 2009. From 2009 to 2013, she worked in the Department of Microbiology at the HKU, having successfully finished a two-year MPhil in microbiology in 2012 and having worked as a full-time Research Assistant the year before and after. Julia will be joining the Garden lab in the U.S. at Penn Vet as a post-doc in 2018/19. 
    • Following the completion of an MSc in immunology at Imperial College London in 2014, Julia is now undertaking a three-year PhD within the Immune Regulation Laboratory at the Royal Veterinary College, studying the role of regulatory T cells in canine diffuse large B cell lymphoma as a model for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
    • In her leisure time, Julia has various interests and especially likes travelling, cycling, Chinese Calligraphy and street dance.
  • Ms. Sabina Hlavaty
    • Sabina Hlavaty, Garden Lab, Penn VetSabina Hlavaty earned her undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 2013, focusing her senior thesis research on the development of marmoset fetal orofacial movements. 
    • After graduation, Sabina joined the National Cancer Institute as a postbaccalaureate research fellow, studying the kinase activity of BRD4. She came to Penn Vet in the fall of 2016, completing her first year of veterinary school prior to taking a leave of absence from her studies in order to perform research full-time. 
    • Her project focuses on understanding the role of myeloid derived suppressor cells in cancer, with a special emphasis on using the dog as a model to study these cells. Sabina is ultimately interested in a career that combines her passion for veterinary medicine and cancer immunology research. 
    • In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, and exploring the restaurant scene in Philadelphia.
  • Undergraduate Student Workers
    • Additionally, Dr. Garden has several student workers from schools within the University, assisting with research and lab administration.


  • Dr. Michelle Goulart
    • Michelle Goulart Michelle graduated from the Universidade Federal de Uberlandia, Brazil in 2002. After four years of private practice in Brazil, she decided to advance her scientific knowledge by pursuing clinical research in the United States.
    • In 2008 she became a research assistant in the Translational Brain Tumor laboratory at the University of Minnesota and started a Master's degree. The excitement of enriching her knowledge in the field of tumor immunology stimulated her to convert the Master's to a PhD program, which she successfully defended in 2014.
    • From 2014 to 2015, Michelle completed a rotating internship in small animal medicine and surgery at the Oregon State University. Following this year of clinical training, Michelle accepted a post-doctoral fellowship in cancer immunology at the Immune Regulation Laboratory, where her interest is in understanding immune regulatory mechanisms in canine B cell lymphoma and other cancers, in particular the role of myeloid-derived suppressor cells.
    • Michelle successfully concluded her project and has moved on to a prestigious postdoctoral Fellowship at the Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, working with Professor Hemant Kocher on pancreatic cancer: https://www.bci.qmul.ac.uk/staff/item/hemant-kocher
  • Mr. Michael Denyer, MRes
    • Michael-Denyer Michael graduated from the University of Oxford in 2001, having completed a BA in Computation. He then pursued a career in IT within the financial services industry, latterly as the head of IT and a partner of the wealth manager Ruffer LLP.
    • In 2013, he made a bold change of career direction, enrolling to study for an MRes in Bioinformatics at Birkbeck, where his research focused on cytotoxic T-cell mediated influenza evolution. Having been awarded a Bloomsbury College Studentship at the Royal Veterinary College for the BBSRC LiDO PhD programme in October 2014, he undertook research on the evolution of immune regulation centered on the regulatory T cell interactome.
    • He worked on establishing the developmental and suppressive mechanisms within this interactome in avian species, as definitive evidence of FoxP3 expression in birds still remains elusive. This work was in collaboration with Dr Adrian Shepherd at Birkbeck.
  • Dr. Dammy Pinheiro
    • Dammy Pinheiro 180Dammy Pinheiro graduated from King’s College London (KCL) with a BSc degree in Biochemistry and Immunology in 2006. From 2006 to 2010, Dammy completed a BBSRC-CASE PhD Studentship focusing on canine regulatory T cells (Tregs) under the supervision of Professor Oliver Garden based at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC). Continuing her association with the Immune Regulation Laboratory, Dammy undertook a Postdoctoral Fellowship studying the role of Tregs in canine lymphoma. In 2013, Dammy moved to the Translational Medicine group at the University of Reading to start a Postdoctoral Research Associate post working on the induction of tolerance in gene therapy.
  • Ms. Natalie Gibbons
    • Natalie-Gibbons 180Natalie spent time in the Immune Regulation Laboratory as part of her iBSc in Comparative Pathology at the RVC. She spent four months researching monocyte heterogeneity in healthy dogs, partly funded by the Kennel Club International Canine Health undergraduate award, and her manuscript is currently under consideration for publication. She has now resumed her studies on the third year of the veterinary medicine course and hopes to focus on small animal practice. She also hopes to return to the project later in the course, or incorporate research into her subsequent career. Her hobbies include art, gymnastics and Muay Thai.
  • Dr. James Swann
    • James Swann 180 As a practicing veterinary surgeon, James has an interest in clinical immunology and in gaining a greater understanding of the features and causes of canine autoimmune diseases, particularly immune-mediated hemolytic anaemia.  In particular, he has conducted recent studies in the Garden laboratory investigating the frequency of regulatory T cells in dogs with this disease.  James also has an interest in development of novel therapies for autoimmune diseases, particularly monoclonal antibody and cell-based treatments.
  • Mr. Luca Fortuna
    • Luca-fortuna 180Luca is a veterinary medicine student at the RVC and spent his time in the lab working towards a project for his intercalated BSc in Comparative Pathology, and subsequently continued this work during a summer studentship. The project was looking at the relationship between regulatory T cells and hypoxia in canine tumors, and Luca had the opportunity to present this work at the AGM of the Association for Veterinary Teaching and Research Work. Luca has now resumed study on the veterinary course where he has an interest in small animal medicine, particularly in oncology and in soft tissue surgery. After graduation Luca hopes to pursue further training in order to gain a clinical specialism, giving him the opportunity to continue conducting research alongside his work as a clinician.