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Lab Members

Tiroui "Diana" Benliyan
Research Associate II

Diana Benliyan joined the MIRIAD group in 2015. Before joining Cedars-Sinai, she earned her bachelor's degree in biological science from the State University of Armenia with a major in physiology. Benliyan completed the University of Southern California's continuing education program and received her Pulmonary Physiology and Technology certificate. She joined Cedars Sinai's respiratory department's Pulmonary Physiology laboratory in 1992 and in 1995 she transferred to the Medical Genetics Institute. She currently works as part of the B-Cell Lab team in the MIRIAD group where she is involved in lymphocyte cell line (LCL) transformations, biobank repository organization and blood sample processing.

Jennifer Davis
Clinical Research Coordinator II

Jennifer Davis earned her bachelor's degree in health promotion and education from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. She obtained public health experience working for the Utah State Health Department. Davis was involved in an epidemiological study to better understand a steep increase in sexually transmitted disease cases among intercity high-risk groups. She has worked previously as a phlebotomist where she enjoyed patient interaction. Davis joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in January 2019. She currently works as part of the Clinical research coordinator team in the MIRIAD group.

Philip Debbas
Research Associate III

Philip Debbas graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018 with a bachelor of science in molecular environmental biology. Debbas has previous experience working at an embryogenesis laboratory assisting in in-vitro fertilization. Debbas joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in September 2019 as a research associate. His role includes serology, DNA isolation, data gathering, and data integration as part of the Serology, Genotyping and Database teams in the MIRIAD group.

Rhiannon Dutra-Clarke
Research Associate II

Rhiannon Dutra-Clarke received her bachelor’s degree in public health sciences from the University of California, Irvine (UCI). During that time, she studied stem cell-based therapies in a rat model for the treatment of retinal degenerative diseases. She currently works as a research associate at Cedars-Sinai for the F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute. Her role includes performing serology, molecular laboratory techniques and data gathering in the MIRIAD group.

Ace Esplago
Research Associate III

Ace Esplago joined Cedars-Sinai's inflammatory bowel disease research team in 2019 after attending the master's in biology program at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). He also obtained his bachelor's degree in biology with a concentration in molecular biology and biotechnology from CSUF. During his time at CSUF, he was involved in research on the antibiotic-resistant strain of Acinetobacter baumannii. His role includes assisting in protein display experiments to identify inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) specific epithelial antigens, in addition to novel genomic assays to functionally characterize the regulatory profile of IBD genetic variation.

Rene Gaeta
Research Associate I

Rene Gaeta received his bachelor’s degree in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics in 2021 from UCLA. During his time there, he studied a family of tailed bacteriophages, Myoviridae, to identify novel relationships between various hosts through bioinformatic analyses at the nucleotide, amino acid and protein levels. Additionally, he has experience with annotating genes in bacteriophages using various bioinformatic programs. Rene joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in November 2021 as a research associate. His role includes serology, genotyping and data gathering in the MIRIAD group.

Richard Garcia
Clinical Research Coordinator

Richard Garcia graduated from California State University, Long Beach, with a bachelor degree in kinesiology. Richard began his career working in a clinical laboratory as both a phlebotomist and lab technician. He first joined the field of research at MemorialCare, where he worked as a clinical research coordinator on studies focusing on cystic fibrosis. Richard joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in early 2022, where he and his fellow peers have pursued inflammatory bowel disease research and cures.

Victoria Garcia
Research Associate I

Victoria Garcia received her bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in public health from Marist College located in Poughkeepsie, New York. During her time there, she focused her capping project on the gut microbiome and its potential link to beta-amyloid plaque formation in Alzheimer’s patients. Additionally, she worked full time as a certified nursing assistant at a skilled nursing facility from 2019-2021. Victoria joined Cedars-Sinai’s F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in November 2021 as a research associate.

Mary Hanna
Clinical Research Associate II

Mary Hanna received her bachelor's degree in biological sciences from the University of California, Irvine in 2017. There, she studied the underlying mechanism of neuroinflammation via microglial activation in patients with traumatic brain injuries. Hanna joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in August 2019. Currently, she works as a clinical research associate in the MIRIAD group procuring surgical tissue samples.

Abdul Khan
Clinical Research Associate I

Abdul Khan received his bachelor’s degree in cell, molecular, and developmental biology from the University of California, Riverside (UCR). During his time there, he studied the complex courtship behavior of hummingbird species, allelic variations and sequence polymorphisms in spider silk genes, and RNA phosphatase PIR-1 modulation of dicer-dependent and dicer-independent argonaute pathways in C. elegans. Khan joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute in 2022. He currently works as a clinical research associate in the MIRIAD Biobank.

Carol Landers
Senior Research Project Advisor

Carol Landers has more than 30 years continuous research and research laboratory management experience in IBD. She is credited with inventing the antibody detection assays currently used by the serotyping unit, and directly oversees the serotyping unit as well as serving as impartial steward of the Mucosal Immunology Repository for Inflammatory And Digestive Diseases (MIRIAD) Biobank and Database, engaging with intra- and extra-mural collaborators to review proposals requesting access to MIRIAD services and specimens. Her expertise is documented in more than 80 articles published in high impact journals. Landers has a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Iowa State University.

Yin Li
Research Associate II

Yin Li joined Cedars-Sinai in 2010. She began her tenure as a research associate in the tissue culture laboratory of the Medical Genetics Institute. Li is a member of the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute (IBIRI), following its merge with the Medical Genetics Institute. Her current expertise focuses on the isolation and preservation of patient lymphoid, fibroblast and other cell lines for subsequent genetic and bioinformatic analysis. Within these few years, Li proved integral in helping IBIRI achieve success on multiple projects related to human genetics. Before joining Cedars-Sinai, Li conducted basic scientific research in the field of adult infectious diseases at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center for more than 15 years. She graduated from the nursing school of the Chinese Academy of Medical Science and served as a nurse in the Beijing Cancer Hospital.

Anzhelya Makaryan
Research Associate II

Anzhelya Makaryan currently works as part of the B cell lab team in the MIRIAD group. Her field of expertise includes creation of lymphoblastoid cell lines from whole blood and setup of fibroblast cultures. Before joining the MIRIAD group, Anzhelya was part of the Medical Genetics Group at Cedars-Sinai. Anzhelya received her master's in biochemistry from the Yerevan State University in Armenia and had worked for over 20 years as a clinical researcher in various hospital labs.

Angela Mujukian, MD
Clinical Research Coordinator

Angela Mujukian, MD joined the Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute (IBIRI) and MIRIAD team at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center under Jonathan Braun, MD. Angela’s research focuses on personalized surgical medicine and patients’ post-surgery outcomes of IBD in surgery. Mujukian received her medical and undergraduate degrees from St. George’s University and UCLA, and shortly after served as a postgraduate clinical research fellow in the Cedars-Sinai Division of Colorectal Surgery under Phillip Fleshner, MD and Karen Zaghiyan, MD.

Maria Salas, LVN
Clinical Research Coordinator II

Maria Salas joined the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute as a clinical research coordinator in 2003. Salas began her career at Cedars-Sinai as part of the Youth Employment and Development program, which is designed for high school juniors interested in careers in the medical field. Prior to her current position, Salas worked in the department of Medical Genetics as a research project assistant. She received her LVN license from American Career College and is a certified phlebotomist. She also graduated from a two-year Spanish/English medical translator program at Mount San Antonio College and speaks fluent Spanish. Currently, Salas works as a clinical research coordinator in the MIRIAD group.

Alumni

  • Noam Jacob, MD
    Currently: T32 fellowship, July 2016-present
  • Jonathan Jacobs, MD
    Lab Project: Microbial gardening by innate lymphoid cells, NIH T32 DK training grant
    Currently: Clinical instructor, medicine/digestive disease, UCLA
  • Susy Yusung, MS, MD,
    Lab Project: CMV infection in individuals with KIR-mediated NK cell licensing genotype predisposes to inflammatory bowel disease
    Currently: Assistant professor, UCLA Pediatrics and UCLA Harbor Medical Center
  • Ian McHardy, PhD, 2011-2013
    Lab Project: Proteomics and related bioinformatics of the mucosal surface and how it is modified by disease states
    Currently: Assistant professor, microbiology, University of California, Davis
  • Maoyong "Leo" Fu, PhD, 2007-12
    Lab Project: Reproductive biology, 1 R21 CA131756
    Currently: Staff research associate in the UCLA Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
  • Ling "Lindy" Chen, MD, 2008-11
    Lab Project: Immunoregulation in inflammatory bowel disease
    Currently: Internal medicine residency, Loma Linda University, California
  • Daisuke Fujiwara, PhD
    Years in Lab: 2005-07
    Lab Project: Dendritic cell trafficking/ differentiation
    Currently: Senior investigator, Kirin Central Laboratories and RIKEN Research Institute, Japan
  • Lihui Luo, MD, 2004-06
    Years in Lab: 2004-06
    Lab Project: KIR genes and autoimmune disease
  • David Ziring, MD, 2003-04
    Lab Project: CB2 and IBD
    Currently: Assistant professor of pediatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
  • Madhuri Wadehra, PhD, 2003-06
    Lab Project: Control of implantation by epithelial membrane protein-2
    Currently: Associate professor, UCLA Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
  • James S. Tomlinson, III, MD, PhD, 2001-06
    Lab Project: Tumor invasion biology
    Currently: Associate professor, UCLA Department of Surgery
  • Siavash Khavar Kurdistani, MD, 2001-04
    Lab Project: Global histone modification patterns in S. cereviasiae
    Currently: Professor and chair, biological chemistry, UCLA
  • George V. Thomas, MD, 1999-2002
    Lab Project: Developing transgenic mouse models of prostate cancer using the avian retrovirus system
    Currently: Assistant professor, Institute of Cancer Research, Royal Marsden Hospital, United Kingdom
  • Bo Wei, PhD, 1998-03
    Lab Project: Inflammatory bowel disease
    Currently: Deputy director/vice president, National Vaccine and Serum Institute, Beijing, China
  • Eri Oshima, PhD, 1998-2000
    Lab Project: Cytoplasmic tail MXXXL motif mediates the internalization of prostate-specific membrane antigen
    Currently: Associate professor, Tokyo University, Japan
  • Galen R. Cortina, MD, PhD, 1996-1998
    Lab Project: Inflammatory bowel disease
    Currently: Professor, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, UCLA
  • Christopher Lee Sutton, PhD, 1995-97
    Lab Project: Inflammatory bowel disease
    Currently: Vice president, Crescendo Biosciences, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Yadira Valles, MD, PhD, 1988-94
    Lab Project: Hypermutation of VH3 genes
    Currently: Research director, DLZ Laboratories

Contact the Braun Lab

110 George Burns Road
Davis Building, Room D4063
Los Angeles, CA 90048