Benjamin D Greenbaum

Benjamin D Greenbaum, PhD

  • ASSISTANT PROFESSOR | Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology
  • ASSISTANT PROFESSOR | Oncological Sciences

I am a quantitative biologist working at the intersection of cancer research, evolution, immunology, and virology. Our lab uses tools from theoretical physics, mathematics and computer science to better understand host-virus interactions and the role they play in cancers. Previously, we showed how single-stranded RNA viruses evolve to mimic the genomic environment of their hosts. We found that the original 1918 influenza lineage altered its genome to mimic dinucleotide composition features of the human genome, and found that such host gene mimicry is a generic feature of such viruses. Importantly, we hypothesized that the innate immune system enforces this by recognizing such motifs in viral genomes and worked closely with Professor Nina Bhardwaj, currently a colleague at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, to validate our hypothesis.

The significance of the mechanisms driving viral evolution and host-virus interactions in cancer has recently become fully appreciated. As a result we are applying our approaches to problems in cancer immunology. We are working to quantify the role of the immune system in several cancers, the interaction of host genomic material with immune receptors, and the role of viruses in cancers. Recently we demonstrated how a set of non-coding RNA emanating from genomic "dark matter" repetitive regions has properties of pathogenic RNA, and therefore may be immunogenic in the tumor microenvironemnt. We worked with the Bhardwaj laboratory to validate this hypothesis. In addition to using our approaches to shed light on these scientific issues, we are working to translate them into clinically impactful results in areas such as immunotherapy. At the same time we continue to develop novel quantitative approaches to a variety of problems in host and viral genome evolution.


PhD, Columbia University