Dennis M. Klinman, M.D., Ph.D.

Dennis M. Klinman, M.D., Ph.D.
NCI Scientist Emeritus

Dr. Klinman co-discovered CpG oligonucleotides (ODN) and demonstrated that they were TLR9 agonists in Man. He pioneered the use of CpG ODN as vaccine adjuvants and immunoprotective agents. He also discovered immunosuppressive ODN and demonstrated their ability to treat/prevent autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Dr. Klinman’s lab focused on modifying the innate immune system to alter inflammation and host susceptibility to cancer. Dr. Klinman is currently an Emeritus Investigator with the National Cancer Institute.

Areas of Expertise

1) immunotherapy, 2) cancer vaccines, 3) innate immunity, 4) TLR agonists, 5) autoimmunity, 6) regulatory affairs

Contact Info

Dennis M. Klinman, M.D., Ph.D.
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
Building 567, Room 205
Frederick, MD 21702-1201
Ph: 301-228-4265

Dr. Klinman’s laboratory focused on understanding the mechanism by which immunomodulatory DNA altered host susceptibility to cancer, inflammation and infectious diseases. His research focused on the ability of immunostimulatory CpG and immunosuppressive TTAGGG oligodeoxynucleotides (ODN) to alter the host’s immune milieu. CpG DNA interacts with toll-like receptor 9 to trigger an innate immune response that improves host resistance to a wide range of infectious microorganisms and tumors. CpG DNA also improves the function of antigen presenting cells, thereby facilitating the development of an adaptive immune response when co-administered with vaccines encoding pathogen or tumor specific antigens. In contrast, suppressive ODN down-regulate inflammatory responses, delaying the onset and reducing the severity of autoimmune and pro-inflammatory syndromes.

Dr. Klinman studied the mechanism of action and therapeutic potential of CpG and suppressive ODN for over two decades. He contributed to the initial discovery of CpG ODN and their immunomodulatory properties, the identification of TLR 9 as the receptor for CpG DNA, the finding that CpG ODN improved host resistance to pathogen and tumor challenge, and the ability of these molecules to act as immune adjuvants, boosting and accelerating the response to therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines. His studies of suppressive ODN included the discovery of the key TTAGGG motif, the molecular mechanism by which suppressive ODN block T cell responses, and their ability to prevent/treat multiple autoimmune and inflammatory diseases in animal models. Dr. Klinman holds numerous licensed patents relating to CpG and suppressive ODN.  Pre-clinical studies examining the immunomodulatory activity and safety of these agents form the basis for a number of ongoing phase I, II and III clinical trials.

Dr. Klinman has also examined the ability of CpG ODN (alone and in combination with other TLR ligands and small molecule immune potentiators) to accelerate and magnify the protective immune response elicited by vaccines targeting infectious pathogens and tumors. He identified novel adjuvant combinations/formulations that significantly improve vaccine-specific immunity.

NIH Scientific Focus Areas:
Cancer Biology, Clinical Research, Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Stem Cell Biology
View Dr. Klinman's PubMed Summary.

Selected Key Publications

  1. Klinman DM, Higgins KW, Conover J.
    J Exp Med. 173: 881, 1991. [ Journal Article ]
  2. Krieg AM, Yi A, Matson S, Waldschmidt TJ, Bishop G, Teasdale R, Koretzky GA, Klinman DM.
    Nature. 374: 546, 1995. [ Journal Article ]
  3. Klinman DM, Yi A, Beaucage SL, Conover J, Krieg AM.
    Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 93: 2879, 1996. [ Journal Article ]
  4. Verthelyi D, Ishii KJ, Gursel M, Klinman DM.
    J Immunol. 166: 2372, 2001. [ Journal Article ]
  5. Shirota Y, Shirota H, Klinman DM.
    J Immunol. 188: 1592, 2012. [ Journal Article ]

Dr. Klinman received his M.D./Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and completed his fellowship training in Rheumatology at the National Institute of Arthritis, NIH. He headed the Section of Viral Immunology at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research of the FDA before joining the Laboratory of Experimental Immunology of the National Cancer Institute as chief of the Immunoregulation Group. He has authored over 340 peer reviewed articles and received the FDA's 'Outstanding Scientist of the Year' Award, the 'Outstanding Achievement Award In Biology' from the Washington Academy of Science, and 'Meritorious', 'Outstanding' and 'Distinguished' Service Medals from the Public Health Service, among other honors.