Sayali Onkar, PhD

  • Senior Scientist, Vaccine and Cell Therapy Lab (VCTL), Mount Sinai Tisch Cancer Institute

Why did you choose the University of Pittsburgh?

Great immunology training program with an impressive breadth of research.

Education & Training

  • PhD in Microbiology and Immunology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 2022
  • MS in Drug Discovery and Drug Design, University of Toledo College of Pharmacy, 2013
  • BS in Pharmacy, University of Pune (India), 2010

Research Interests

Immunology; immunooncology; breast cancer


Kürten, C. H. L., Kulkarni, A., Cillo, A. R., Santos, P. M., Roble, A. K., Onkar, S., Reeder, C., Lang, S., Chen, X., Duvvuri, U., Kim, S., Liu, A., Tabib, T., Lafyatis, R., Feng, J., Gao, S.-J., Bruno, T. C., Vignali, D. A. A., Lu, X., … Ferris, R. L. (2021). Investigating immune and non-immune cell interactions in head and neck tumors by single-cell RNA sequencing. Nature Communications, 12(1), 7338. 

Cillo, A. R., Somasundaram, A., Shan, F., Cardello, C., Workman, C. J., Kitsios, G. D., Ruffin, A. T., Kunning, S., Lampenfeld, C., Onkar, S., Grebinoski, S., Deshmukh, G., Methe, B., Liu, C., Nambulli, S., Andrews, L. P., Duprex, W. P., Joglekar, A. V., Benos, P. V., … Vignali, D. A. A. (2021). People critically ill with COVID-19 exhibit peripheral immune profiles predictive of mortality and reflective of SARS-CoV-2 lung viral burden. Cell Reports Medicine, 2(12), 100476. 

Cascio, S., Chandler, C., Zhang, L., Sinno, S., Gao, B., Onkar, S., Bruno, T. C., Vignali, D. A. A., Mahdi, H., Osmanbeyoglu, H. U., Vlad, A. M., Coffman, L. G., & Buckanovich, R. J. (2021). Cancer-associated MSC drive tumor immune exclusion and resistance to immunotherapy, which can be overcome by Hedgehog inhibition. Science Advances, 7(46), eabi5790. 

Ruffin, A. T., Cillo, A. R., Tabib, T., Liu, A., Onkar, S., Kunning, S. R., Lampenfeld, C., Atiya, H. I., Abecassis, I., Kürten, C. H. L., Qi, Z., Soose, R., Duvvuri, U., Kim, S., Oesterrich, S., Lafyatis, R., Coffman, L. G., Ferris, R. L., Vignali, D. A. A., & Bruno, T. C. (2021). B cell signatures and tertiary lymphoid structures contribute to outcome in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Nature Communications, 12(1), 3349. 

Cillo, A. R., Kürten, C. H. L., Tabib, T., Qi, Z., Onkar, S., Wang, T., Liu, A., Duvvuri, U., Kim, S., Soose, R. J., Oesterreich, S., Chen, W., Lafyatis, R., Bruno, T. C., Ferris, R. L., & Vignali, D. A. A. (2020). Immune Landscape of Viral- and Carcinogen-Driven Head and Neck Cancer. Immunity, 52(1), 183-199.e9.

Zhu, L., Narloch, J. L., Onkar, S., Joy, M., Broadwater, G., Luedke, C., Hall, A., Kim, R., Pogue-Geile, K., Sammons, S., Nayyar, N., Chukwueke, U., Brastianos, P. K., Anders, C. K., Soloff, A. C., Vignali, D. A. A., Tseng, G. C., Emens, L. A., Lucas, P. C., … Lee, A. V. (2019). Metastatic breast cancers have reduced immune cell recruitment but harbor increased macrophages relative to their matched primary tumors. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer, 7(1), 265.

Joachim, A., Msafiri, F., Onkar, S., Munseri, P., Aboud, S., Lyamuya, E. F., Bakari, M., Billings, E., Robb, M. L., Wahren, B., Mhalu, F. S., Sandström, E., Rao, M., Nilsson, C., & Biberfeld, G. (2020). Frequent and Durable Anti-HIV Envelope VIV2 IgG Responses Induced by HIV-1 DNA Priming and HIV-MVA Boosting in Healthy Tanzanian Volunteers. Vaccines, 8(4), 681.

Rao, M., Onkar, S., Peachman, K. K., White, Y., Trinh, H. V, Jobe, O., Zhou, Y., Dawson, P., Eller, M. A., Matyas, G. R., & Alving, C. R. (2018). Liposome-Encapsulated Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 gp120 Induces Potent V1V2-Specific Antibodies in Humans. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 218(10), 1541–1550.

Wen, Y., Trinh, H. V, Linton, C. E., Tani, C., Norais, N., Martinez-Guzman, D., Ramesh, P., Sun, Y., Situ, F., Karaca-Griffin, S., Hamlin, C., Onkar, S., Tian, S., Hilt, S., Malyala, P., Lodaya, R., Li, N., Otten, G., Palladino, G., … Barnett, S. W. (2018). Generation and characterization of a bivalent protein boost for future clinical trials: HIV-1 subtypes CR01_AE and B gp120 antigens with a potent adjuvant. PLOS ONE, 13(4), e0194266.

Jobe, O., Kim, J., Tycksen, E., Onkar, S., Michael, N. L., Alving, C. R., & Rao, M. (2017). Human Primary Macrophages Derived In Vitro from Circulating Monocytes Comprise Adherent and Non-Adherent Subsets with Differential Expression of Siglec-1 and CD4 and Permissiveness to HIV-1 Infection. Frontiers in Immunology, 8, 1352.

Merbah, M., Onkar, S., Grivel, J.-C., Vanpouille, C., Biancotto, A., Bonar, L., Sanders-Buell, E., Kijak, G., Michael, N., Robb, M., Kim, J. H., Tovanabutra, S., & Chenine, A.-L. (2016). Standardization of a cytometric p24-capture bead-assay for the detection of main HIV-1 subtypes. Journal of Virological Methods, 230, 45–52.