Who We Are



Jorge Oksenberg, PhD.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Oksenberg is the G.A. Zimmermann Endowed Chair in Neurology. As a native from Argentina, Dr. Oksenberg received his Ph.D. in Immunology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and joined the UCSF faculty in 1993 following post-doctoral training at Stanford University. Since 1979 his research has focused in the areas of human immunogenetics and the control of the immune response. He has authored numerous publication and scholarly reviews in the field and is a leading investigator in the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium.
contact: jorge.oksenberg@ucsf.edu


Alessandro Didonna, PhD.

Adjunct Assistant Professor

My main research interest consists in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration. I obtained a PhD in Structural and Functional Genomics at the International School for Advanced Studies (Italy), where I studied the effects of prion infection on neuronal signaling under the supervision of Dr. Giuseppe Legname. In 2010, I joined the laboratory of Dr. Puneet Opal at Northwestern University, focusing my research efforts on the study of the polyglutamine disorder spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) and the rare pediatric disease giant axonal neuropathy (GAN). For my second postdoctoral experience, I joined in 2013 the Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Laboratory directed by Dr. Jorge Oksenberg at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and, since then, I have been working on the functional characterization of the genome wide association study (GWAS) data generated in the lab. Additionally, I have been using cutting-edge genomic tools and mouse genetics to understand MS pathophysiology. In 2018, I have transitioned to an Assistant Adjunct Professor position, extending my research to the investigation of neurodegenerative processes in progressive MS.
contact: alessandro.didonna@ucsf.edu


Qin Ma, PhD.

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Qin joined the group in January 2019 after obtaining her PhD from Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. In the Oksenberg lab, her research mainly focuses on understanding the genetic and epigenetic regulations in MS. She will combine experiments and bioinformatics to understand the molecular mechanism of MS.
contact: qin.ma@ucsf.edu


Hengameh Shams, PhD.

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Hengameh joined the Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Research Lab in January of 2018. She received her PhD in Applied Science and Technology from UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on understanding complex genetic architecture driving MS phenotypes. She is also interested in studying mechanisms behind early disease development and response to treatment.
contact: hengameh.shams@ucsf.edu


Stacy Caillier

Biorepository Manager

Stacy started working with the Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Research Group in July of 1998, after graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a bachelor degree in Neuroscience and Behavior. In addition to heading up the DNA genotyping projects, she works in quantitative PCR, and SNP/expression chips. More recently, Stacy is leading the application of immunological assays to assess the functional role of genetic variants associated with multiple sclerosis susceptibility and progression.
contact: stacy.caillier@ucsf.edu


Brenda Ho

Staff Research Associate

Brenda started working with the Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Research Lab in December of 2018. She received her B.S. from the University of Maryland in Biology with specialization in Physiology and Neurobiology. She is using next generation sequencing methods to characterize variants within MHC genes, specifically in the HLA region for patients with MS. Brenda also works with the Central Biorepository to process and catalogue extracted DNA received from clinic.
contact: brenda.ho@ucsf.edu


Rosa Guerrero

Bio-Specimens Technician

Rosa started working with the group in July of 2004 after working at the UCSF DNA Bank. Rosa's primary responsibility is the isolation of high quality nucleic acids from blood samples received from across the United States and abroad for genetic studies in multiple sclerosis.
contact: rosa.guerrero@ucsf.edu


Nicholas Lee

Bio-Specimens Technician

Nicholas joined the group in July 2018 after graduating from University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. Nicholas processes blood samples, isolating plasma, serum, DNA, and lymphocytes for research studies.
contact: nicholas.lee@ucsf.edu


Atsuko Matsunaga

Bio-Specimens Technician

Atsuko previously worked in the Center of Brain Science at the RIKEN Institute, where she was involved in projects aimed at characterizing the role of calcium channels, AMPA receptors, and different metabolic proteins in cerebellar Purkinje neurons’ activity. Atsuko's main work here in the Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Laboratory is to further the understanding of the molecular basis of genetic susceptibility in multiple sclerosis and CNS autoimmunity. To pursue this aim, she adopts in vitro, cellular and mouse models, and employs a variety of molecular techniques including immunocytofluorescence, ELISA, western blotting and co-immunoprecipitation assays.
contact: atsuko.downey@ucsf.edu


Janet Yau

Administrative Support

Janet came to us with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and her position covers a wide variety of responsibilities related to purchasing and funds management. She also plays a key role in assuring smooth daily lab operations.
contact: janet.yau@ucsf.edu


Adam Santaniello

Database Manager

Adam has a B.S. in Engineering Science with Tau Beta Pi honors from Tufts University in Medford, MA. His prior experience includes software development and project management for consulting and financial services firms. He joined our lab in November 2007 and is leading the integration and enhancement of the lab's data sources.
contact: adam.santaniello@ucsf.edu


Adam Renschen

Data Systems Analyst

Adam Renschen joined the Genetics Laboratory in October 2016 as a web developer and member of the data management team. He has designed, built, and deployed websites, databases, and API’s to securely make research data available to remote consumers. He assists with the management of the laboratory databases and provides general IT support.
contact: adam.renschen@ucsf.edu