A photo of Stephen Waggoner.

Stephen N. Waggoner, PhD

  • Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



As a postdoctoral trainee at the University of Massachusetts, I conducted work that led to the discovery of an immunoregulatory role of natural killer (NK) cells. This training — along with my interactions with friends suffering from autoimmune disease — fueled my current research interests.

At Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, I study viruses and diseases associated with viral infections, vaccines, autoimmune disease, inflammatory disease, innate immunity, immune regulation and cellular immunotherapy.

The goals of my research are three-fold:

  • Improve and enable effective new vaccines for human disease
  • Understand pathogenesis of infectious, autoimmune and allergic disease
  • Develop new therapies capable of promoting sustained disease remission for lupus and other autoimmune conditions

Building on my early NK cell work, our lab has shown that NK cell regulatory activity constrains vaccine-induced immune responses and could be targeted to permit the development of effective vaccines. We have also been working on a cellular immunotherapy, which shows promise for the treatment of autoimmune disease.

I am a standing member of the National Institutes of Health HIV Immunopathogenesis and Vaccine Development Study Section. In 2014, I received the National Institute on Drug Abuse Avante-Garde Award for HIV/AIDS research. I have also received the Dr. Ralph and Marian Falk Medical Research Trust Catalyst Award.

BA: St. Mary's College of Maryland, St. Mary's City, MD, 2000.

PhD: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 2007.

Post Doc: University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA.


Viral immunology; natural killer cells; immunoregulation; vaccines; autoimmunity; immune dysfunction in aging.

Research Areas




Targeting natural killer cells to enhance vaccine responses. Cox, A; Cevik, H; Feldman, HA; Canaday, LM; Lakes, N; Waggoner, SN. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. 2021; 42:789-801.


Immunomodulatory effects of cytokine-induced expansion of cytotoxic lymphocytes in a mouse model of lupus-like disease. Reighard, SD; Krishnamurthy, D; Cevik, H; Ochayon, DE; Ali, A; Seelamneni, H; Brunner, HI; Waggoner, SN. Cytotherapy (Informa). 2021; 23:37-45.


The Promise and Peril of Natural Killer Cell Therapies in Pulmonary Infection. Rajaram, S; Canaday, LM; Ochayon, DE; Rangel, KM; Ali, A; Gyurova, IE; Krishnamurthy, D; Fletcher, JS; Reighard, SD; Cox, A; Deshmukh, H; Zacharias, WJ; Borchers, MT; Waggoner, SN. Immunity. 2020; 52:887-889.


Therapeutic Targeting of Follicular T Cells with Chimeric Antigen Receptor-Expressing Natural Killer Cells. Reighard, SD; Cranert, SA; Rangel, KM; Ali, A; Gyurova, IE; de la Cruz-Lynch, AT; Tuazon, JA; Khodoun, MV; Kottyan, LC; Smith, DF; Brunner, HI; Waggoner, SN. Cell Reports Medicine. 2020; 1:100003.


IL-33 promotes type 1 cytokine expression via p38 MAPK in human NK cells. Ochayon, DE; Ali, A; Alarcon, PC; Krishnamurthy, D; Kottyan, LC; Borchers, MT; Waggoner, SN. Journal of Leukocyte Biology. 2020; 107:663-671.


Dynamic Changes in Natural Killer Cell Subset Frequencies in the Absence of Cytomegalovirus Infection. Gyurova, IE; Schlums, H; Sucharew, H; Ambroggio, L; Ochayon, DE; Win, HT; Bryceson, YT; Bernsteins, DI; Waggoner, SN. Frontiers in Immunology. 2019; 10:2728.


Characterization of Transcriptional Regulatory Networks that Promote and Restrict Identities and Functions of Intestinal Innate Lymphoid Cells. Pokrovskii, M; Hall, JA; Ochayon, DE; Yi, R; Chaimowitz, NS; Seelamneni, H; Carriero, N; Watters, A; Waggoner, SN; Littman, DR; Bonneau, R; Miraldi, ER. Immunity. 2019; 51:185-197.e6.


Affinity Maturation Is Impaired by Natural Killer Cell Suppression of Germinal Centers. Rydyznski, CE; Cranert, SA; Zhou, JQ; Xu, H; Kleinstein, SH; Singh, H; Waggoner, SN. Cell Reports. 2018; 24:3367-3373.e4.


Generation of cellular immune memory and B-cell immunity is impaired by natural killer cells. Rydyznski, C; Daniels, KA; Karmele, EP; Brooks, TR; Mahl, SE; Moran, MT; Li, C; Sutiwisesak, R; Welsh, RM; Waggoner, SN. Nature Communications. 2015; 6:6375.

Associations of Smoking, Cytomegalovirus Serostatus, and Natural Killer Cell Phenotypes in Smokers With and At Risk for COPD. Burkes, RM; Bailey, E; Hwalek, T; Osterburg, A; Lach, L; Panos, R; Waggoner, SN; Borchers, MT. Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (Miami, Fla.). 2023; 10:286-296.