About the Youngblood Lab

Immune cell-based therapies have emerged as a promising new tool in the fight against cancer and chronic infections. Prolonged stimulation of T cells leads to “exhaustion” and limits their ability to function. We use a combination of epigenetic and computational techniques to study this T cell exhaustion. Our laboratory wants to understand the mechanisms that regulate the development of T cells during infection, cancer, and autoimmunity with the goal of improving treatments for these diseases.

Science Team

The Team

The Youngblood Lab has a team of biological and clinical scientists focused on translating fundamental immunological discoveries into therapies.

Our research summary

Following chronic stimulation, T cells undergo a developmental process known as “exhaustion,” a dysfunctional state reinforced by epigenetic changes that limits their capacity to mount an effector response. The commitment of T cells to this exhausted fate is currently a major barrier in the advancement of T cell immunotherapy efforts. Our lab discovered that T cells can resist exhaustion when a particular enzyme is knocked out – even if the source of antigen persists. We are now applying this perturbation approach to CAR T cells, creating persistent populations of functional cells that we can now evaluate in clinical trials at St. Jude. 

Youngblood Lab

Our laboratory employs cutting-edge epigenetic and transcriptional profiling techniques, gene engineering approaches in human and murine models of T cell exhaustion, and computational analyses to identify molecular mechanisms of T cell exhaustion. We then work to develop innovative strategies to block exhaustion and prolong T cell responses during immunotherapy. This work not only provides insight into the process of T cell exhaustion, but also reveals clues to improve T cell-based immunotherapies.  

We are actively extending our research toward immuno-oncology, specifically the tumor microenvironment’s role in T cell differentiation and how we can leverage our previous discoveries to better understand tumor immunology.

Selected Publications

Contact us

Benjamin A. Youngblood, PhD
Member, St. Jude Faculty
Department of Immunology


St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN, 38105-3678 USA
901-595-6749 Benjamin.Youngblood@stjude.org
262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN, 38105-3678 USA