Kimberly A. Risma, MD, PhD

Director, Allergy and Immunology Fellowship Program

Academic Affiliations

Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics

Phone 513-636-6771

Fax 513-636-5835



Immune deficiency; immune dysregulation


Pathophysiology of perforin missense mutations identified in individuals with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis; molecular mechanisms of primary immune deficiency and dysregulation; natural killer cell and cytotoxic T lymphocyte cytotoxicity

Visit the Risma Lab website.

Kimberly Risma, MD, PhD, is an associate professor in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Cincinnati Children’s within the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Dr. Risma graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Duke University in 1990 and was elected into The Phi Beta Kappa Society. She then matriculated at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). In 1996, she completed a PhD in pharmacology. She was selected by the leadership of the CWRU MSTP as the recipient of the 1997 Martin Wahl Memorial Fund Award, given annually to recognize the graduating MD, PhD student who has demonstrated the highest level of independence in research and excellence in research and clinical skills. She was also elected to Alpha Omega Alpha Society in 1997.

In 1997, she enrolled in a pediatrics residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center/University of Cincinnati. During the residency program, Dr. Risma was awarded the pediatric resident teaching award by the medical students. She also engaged in translational research studies related to the genetics of asthma under the mentorship of Dr. Gurjit Hershey, resulting in a first author publication as a pediatric resident.

In 2000, Dr. Risma was accepted to the Allergy and Immunology Fellowship Program at Cincinnati Children’s. In addition to her clinical training, she pursued an innovative research project under the mentorship of Dr. Janos Sumegi and Dr. Alexandra Filipovich. She proposed a mechanism to study the structural and functional impact of perforin missense mutations identified in patients with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. In 2004 she was awarded the Nezelof Prize for best scientific presentation at the international meeting of the Histiocyte Society. The culmination of her fellowship research project was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2006.

Upon completion of her fellowship in 2005, Dr. Risma was appointed as an assistant professor in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center within the UC Department of Pediatrics. In 2006 Dr. Risma received a Clinical Scientist Development Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Dr. Risma is the director of the Allergy and Immunology Fellowship Program at Cincinnati Children's, having served in this leadership position since August of 2012.

Dr. Risma's research program focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of immunodeficiency and immune dysregulation in children, especially as it relates to disorders of lymphocyte cytotoxicity. In addition to her research, she sees patients from all around the country in consultation for primary immune deficiency, immune dysregulation, and allergic disorders.

MD: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH, 1997.

PhD: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH, 1996.

Residency: Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 1997-2000.

Fellowship: Allergy / Immunology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Certification: Pediatrics, 2007; Allergy and Immunology, 2005.

View PubMed Publications

Vrazo AC, Hontz AE, Figueira SK, Butler BL, Ferrell JM, Binkowski BF, Li J, Risma KA. Live cell evaluation of granzyme delivery and death receptor signaling in tumor cells targeted by human natural killer cells. Blood. 2015 Jun 29.

Carmo M, Risma KA, Arumugam P, Tiwari S, Hontz AE, Montiel-Equihua CA, Alonso-Ferrero ME, Blundell MP, Schambach A, Baum C, Malik P, Thrasher AJ, Jordan MB, Gaspar HB. Perforin gene transfer into hematopoietic stem cells improves
immune dysregulation in murine models of perforin deficiency.
Mol Ther. 2015 Apr;23(4):737-45.

Li J, Figueira SK, Vrazo AC, Binkowski BF, Butler BL, Tabata Y, Filipovich A, Jordan MB, Risma KA. Real-Time Detection of CTL Function Reveals Distinct Patterns of Caspase Activation Mediated by Fas versus Granzyme B. J Immunol. 2014 Jul 15;193(2):519-28.

Mellor-Heineke S, Villanueva J, Jordan MB, Marsh R, Zhang K, Bleesing JJ, Filipovich AH, Risma KA. Elevated Granzyme B in Cytotoxic Lymphocytes is a Signature of Immune Activation in Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis. Front Immunol. 2013 Mar 22; 4:72.

Risma K, Jordan MB. Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis: updates and evolving concepts. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2012 Feb;24(1):9-15.

Zhang K, Jordan MB, Marsh RA, Johnson JA, Kissell D, Meller J, Villanueva J, Risma KA, Wei Q, Klein PS, Filipovich AH. Hypomorphic mutations in PRF1, MUNC13-4, and STXBP2 are associated with adult-onset familial HLH. Blood. 2011 Nov 24;118(22):5794-8.

Lykens JE, Terrell CE, Zoller EE, Risma K, Jordan MB. Perforin is a critical physiologic regulator of T-cell activation. Blood. 2011 Jul 21;118(3):618-26.

Sumegi J, Barnes MG, Nestheide SV, Molleran-Lee S, Villanueva J, Zhang K, Risma KA, Grom AA, Filipovich AH. Gene expression profiling of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from children with active hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. Blood. 2011 Apr 14;117(15):e151-60.

Urrea Moreno R, Gil J, Rodriguez-Sainz C, Cela E, LaFay V, Oloizia B, Herr AB, Sumegi J, Jordan MB, Risma KA. Functional assessment of perforin C2 domain mutations illustrates the critical role for calcium-dependent lipid binding in perforin cytotoxic function. Blood. 2009 Jan 8;113(2):338-46.

Risma KA, Frayer RW, Filipovich AH, Sumegi J. Aberrant maturation of mutant perforin underlies the clinical diversity of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. J Clin Invest. 2006 Jan;116(1):182-92.