Skip to main content

Yutaka Tagaya, BM, PhD

Academic Title:

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:


Additional Title:

Head of the IHV FlowCore, Institute of Human Virology


Institute of Human Virology, BIO, S620/N635

Phone (Primary):

(410) 706-5870

Education and Training

1981-1986  Medical School, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan - M.D.

1986-1990  Graduate School, Medical School, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan - Ph.D. in Molecular Biochemistry

1990-1993  Postdoctoral Research Associate, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunoloty, La Jolla, CA

1993-1995  Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cornell Medical School, New York, NY

1995-1998  Visiting Associate, Metabolism Branch, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD



Dr. Tagaya is an expert of Cytokine Biology and T-cell immunology. He has studied the biology of interleukin-15 in the early research days of this cytokine and defined new receptor, proposed a new mode of action of this cytokine that it is a membrane-assocaited heterodimeric factor to be presented in trans to neighboring T/NK cells (the trans-presentation of IL-15) and created an IL-15 transgenic mouse whch develops a CD8 type T-cell leukemia at the National Cancer Institute (Bethesda, MD) prior joining the IHV/Universify or Maryland School of Medicine as a faculty member.   

Following appointment at the IHV/Universify of Maryland School of Medicine, Dr. Tagaya continued his research on controling the action of the gamma-family cytokines including IL-15 in human diseases. Dr. Tagaya proposed a new way of designing peptide-inhibitors which block the action of not only just one cytokine, but multiple structurally-related cytokines and demonstrated that there exist many human diseases that are caused by the cooperation of sibling cytokines from a family. Moreover, such pathogenic of cooperation of related cytokines can only be efficiently controlled by multi-cytokine targeting strategy that Dr. Tagaya proposed, but not by the conventional monotherapy using single monoclonal antibodies. Based on this idea, Dr. Tagaya has co-founded a company BIONIZ Therapeutics in Irvine CA and  his group is currentlly conducting a clinical trial with this company for developing the lead-peptide that came ouf of his own idea as a treatment drug for T-cell malignancy, autoimmunity and inflammatory diseases.

In parallel, Dr. Tagaya also studies human T-cell leukemia virus-1 (HTLV-1) which causes a CD4 type T-cell leukemia (adult T-cell leukemia, ATL) and a myelopathy (HAM/TSP, HTLV-1 related myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis). His main interest in the HTLV-1 research is to understand the role of a recently-discovered anti-sense factor of this virus HBZ (HTLV-1 basic-zipper factor) in the leukemogenesis of this virus and to study the anti-HTLV-1 immune response targeting HBZ for developing a curative treatment for ATL and HAM using humanized mouse models that his group has developed for this purpose.

Research/Clinical Keywords

T cell immunobiology, Cytokines and receptor biology, multi-cytokine disease, multi-cytokine inhibitor, HTLV-1 (Human T-cell leukemia virus I), HBZ, immunotherapy

Highlighted Publications

Tagaya Y, Gallo RC. The Exceptional Oncogenicity of HTLV-1. Front Microbiol.
2017 8:1425. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.01425.PMID: 28824561;PMCID: PMC5539117.

Nata T, Basheer A, Cocchi F, van Besien R, Massoud R, Jacobson S, Azimi N,
Tagaya Y. Targeting the binding interface on a shared receptor subunit of a
cytokine family enables the inhibition of multiple member cytokines with
selectable target spectrum. J Biol Chem. 2015 290:22338-51. doi:
10.1074/jbc.M115.661074. EPMID: 26183780; PMCID: PMC4566211.


Sato N, Sabzevari H, Fu S, Ju W, Petrus MN, Bamford RN, Waldmann TA, Tagaya Y.
Development of an IL-15-autocrine CD8 T-cell leukemia in IL-15-transgenic mice
requires the cis expression of IL-15Rα. Blood. 2011 117:4032-40. doi:
10.1182/blood-2010-09-307504. PMID: 21304101; PMCID: PMC3087530.


Dubois S, Mariner J, Waldmann TA, Tagaya Y. IL-15Ralpha recycles and presents
IL-15 In trans to neighboring cells. Immunity. 2002 17:537-47.PMID: 12433361.

Tagaya Y, Burton JD, Miyamoto Y, Waldmann TA. Identification of a novel
receptor/signal transduction pathway for IL-15/T in mast cells. EMBO J. 1996 15:4928-39.  PMID:
8890166;  PMCID: PMC452230.