Alberto Fernández-Tejada
Alberto Fernández-Tejada
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR
Ikerbasque Research Professor - Ramon y Cajal (RyC) programme
Address: Bizkaia Science and Technology Park,
building 801A, Derio (Bizkaia)
Chemical Immunology Lab

Dr. Alberto Fernández-Tejada received his undergraduate BSc degree in Chemistry in 2004 from the University of La Rioja (Spain), where he also completed his PhD studies on the synthesis and conformational analysis of O-glycopeptides incorporating unnatural amino acids under the supervision of Prof. Jesús M. Peregrina and Dr. Francisco Corzana. He received his PhD in Chemistry in 2009, and then moved to New York in 2010 to join the group of the late Prof. David Y. Gin at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC, USA) as a MEC-Fulbright postdoctoral fellow, working independently and leading a project on the synthesis and immunological evaluation of vaccine adjuvants based on the saponin natural product QS-21. After Prof. Gin's death, in 2012 he went on to the laboratory of Prof. Samuel J. Danishefsky (MSKCC) as a Marie Curie International Outgoing fellow (MC-IOF) to work on the synthesis of glycosylated proteins and the development of carbohydrate and glycopeptide-based anticancer and HIV vaccines. These research lines that Dr. Fernández-Tejada independently developed at MSKCC have become one of his main scientific interests and constitute a significant part of his research portfolio. Following the 4-year postdoctoral appointment at Sloan Kettering, in 2014 he joined the group of Prof. Jiménez-Barbero at CIB-CSIC (Madrid) and then CIC bioGUNE (Bilbao) as part of the reintegration phase of his Marie Curie IOF fellowship, which focused on the conformational analysis and dynamics of the saponin variants synthesized at MSKCC. To further expand his scientific repertoire, Dr. Fernández-Tejada moved to the laboratory of Prof. Ben Davis at the University of Oxford in late 2015, where he worked as a senior postdoctoral researcher on the development of novel chemoenzymatic approaches to probe protein O-GlcNAc glycosylation, funded through a Marie Curie Intra-European fellowship. In 2016, he was awarded a Ramón y Cajal and an Ikerbasque research contract as well as an ERC-Starting Grant from the European Research Council to begin his independent career. Dr. Fernández-Tejada took up his Group Leader position as Ikerbasque Research Professor at CIC bioGUNE in early 2017, with a research program at the frontier of chemistry and immunology focused on the development of synthetic, saponin-based self-adjuvanting vaccines and the elucidation of their mechanisms of action.

Dr. Fernández-Tejada has authored more than 20 scientific publications in top, highly prestigious journals (Nature Chem, Acc Chem Res, Sci Transl Med, J Am Chem Soc, PNAS, Chem Sci), more than 15 as first author, and 10 as corresponding author. He has participated as speaker in more than 10 scientific conferences in the last five years and his research has resulted in 4 international patents/patent applications. Dr. Fernández-Tejada has actively participated in top research programs around the world, both in the US (NIH), as well as at the European (7th Framework Program and Horizon 2020) and national level (Plan Nacional I+D+i), and has always obtained funding from the most prestigious agencies both as a postdoctoral fellow (Fulbright, two Marie Curie Individual Fellowships) and more recently as a Principal Investigator (Ramón y Cajal contract, Ikerbasque Research Professorship, and ERC Starting Grant). He is member of the American Chemical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Spanish Royal Society of Chemistry, and the British Society for Immunology

The clinical success of anticancer and antiviral vaccines often requires co-administration of an adjuvant, a substance that enhances the immunogenicity of the antigen and potentiates the immune response. However, few adjuvants exhibit sufficient potency and negligible toxicity to be suitable for clinical use; moreover, their mechanisms of action are generally not fully understood. Current subunit vaccines based on weakly immunogenic carbohydrate and glycopeptide antigens are not being very successful in eliciting a strong immune response against cancer, and no such carbohydrate-based anticancer vaccine has yet been approved for humans despite extensive research efforts and several clinical trials. In this context, building upon the PI's previous background and expertise in the area, the research program in the Fernández-Tejada Group has a double, ultimate goal based on applying chemistry to address the above clear gaps in the adjuvant/vaccine field. With this idea in mind, the Chemical Immunology Lab established by Dr. Fernández-Tejada at CIC bioGUNE will develop new improved adjuvants and novel chemical strategies towards more effective, self-adjuvanting synthetic vaccines. Moreover, leveraging the extraordinary facilities and scientific expertise available at CIC bioGUNE, we will also focus on investigating the molecular mechanisms of the synthetic constructs by combining extensive immunological evaluations with molecular target identification studies and detailed conformational analysis. Thus, the Fernández-Tejada Group builds upon a highly multidisciplinary program integrating ambitious objectives and complementary approaches at the chemistry-biology frontier. Research in the Chemical Immunology Lab connects chemical synthesis and chemical/structural biology with cellular and molecular immunology to explore key unresolved mechanistic questions in the adjuvant/vaccine arena with extraordinary chemical precision.

The Fernández-Tejada Lab is funded primarily by the European Research Council through an ERC Starting Grant, which provides €1.5 million funding for a transformative and timely research program aimed at developing novel synthetic self-adjuvanting vaccines with improved properties and efficacy, as well as unraveling the molecular basis and three-dimensional structure underlying the biological activity of these constructs.