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Assistant Professor

Fenna Sillé, PhD, studies how environmental exposures change the immune system and increase the risk of respiratory infections and lung cancer.

Contact Info

615 N. Wolfe Street, Room E7628

Research Interests

Immunology; Immunotoxicology; Environmental Health; Early-life exposures; Arsenic; Metabolomics; Infectious Diseases: Tuberculosis, Influenza; Immunological Memory; Vaccine efficacy; Cancer; Exposome; Immunome
Experiences & Accomplishments
Utrecht University/Harvard Institutes of Medicine
University of Groningen
The focus of my research group is to understand the effects of environmental exposures on the development and function of our immune system.

Motto: Healthy Environment = Health People (See:

Major research directions:

Understanding the long-term effects of early-life and/or chronic arsenic exposures on immunity and infectious disease as well as cancer risk. - Currently:
1. Studying the influence of arsenic on tuberculosis, influenza and cancer risk. a. Unraveling the mechanisms driving the sex-specific immune-related effects of arsenic exposure.
b. Determining how arsenic exposure affects pregnant females in health and during influenza infection.
c. Investigating the effects of in utero arsenic exposure on the placenta as well as fetal organ and immune development.
d. Mapping tissue-specific arsenic speciation.

2. Establishing an integrated platform for immunotoxicity testing of early-life chemical exposures.

3. Investigating the effects chronic as well as early-life exposures on immunological memory and vaccine efficacy.

4. Investigating the "immunome" in collaborative exposome studies.

5. Sex differences and the cytokine storm associated with COVID-19 mortality

Besides my own lab efforts I also lead:
a. The Alternatives to Developmental Immunotoxicity Testing working group within the Center for Alternative Animal Testing (CAAT)
b. The Exposome Collaborative at Johns Hopkins University (Director)
Honors & Awards
2021, Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund (CRF) – Translational Research Project Award
2020, Seed Grant on Sex/Gender Differences in COVID-19 by the Foundations for Gender-Specific Medicine, the JH-Center for Women’s Health, Sex and Gender Research and the JH-SCORE program
2019, JHSPH Ho-Ching Yang Memorial Faculty Innovation Award
2018-2019, Science Communication Fellowship, Advancing Green Science
2016, Society of Toxicology, Immunotoxicology Specialty Section Best Presentation by a Postdoctoral Trainee Award for presentation on: "Long-term effects of early-life arsenic exposure on innate immunity"
2015-2020, NIEHS K99/R00 NIH Pathway to Independence Award entitled “Long-term Effects of Early-Life Arsenic Exposure on Immunity” (NIEHS - K99ES024808 / R00ES024808 start date: 9/1/2015)
2015, NorCal Society of Toxicology, Postdoctoral Achievement Award
2015, Society of Toxicology, HESI Young Investigator Endowment Award
2005-2007, Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds PhD Fellowship
2003, Groningen University Fund: Award for international fellowship
2003, Marco Polo Fund, Groningen University: Award for international fellowship
Select Publications
Selected publications:
  • Rychlik KA, Sillé FCM, (2019). Environmental Exposures During Pregnancy: Mechanistic Effects on Immunity. Birth Defects Research. 2019 Mar 1;111(4):178-196. doi: 10.1002/bdr2.1469. Epub 2019 Feb 1. Review. PMID: 30708400
  • Daniels SI, Sillé FCM, Goldbaum A, Yee B, Key E, Zhang L, Smith MT, Thomas R. (2014). Improving power to detect changes in blood miRNA expression by accounting for sources of variability in experimental designs. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 23(12):2658-66. PMID: 25472674; PMCID: PMC4256675
  • Sillé FCM, Conde L, Zhang J, Akers NK, Sanchez S, Maltbaek J, Riby JE, Smith MT and Skibola CF. (2014). Follicular lymphoma-protective HLA class II variants correlate with increased HLA-DQB1 protein expression. Genes and Immunity. 15(2):133-6. 1-4. 10.1038/gene.2013.64. PMID: 24304973; NIHMSID: NIHMS547241
  • Skibola CF, Conde L, Foo JN, Riby J, Humphreys K, Sillé FCM, Darabi H, Sanchez S, Hjalgrim H, Liu J, Bracci PM, Smedby KE. (2012). A meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies of follicular lymphoma. BMC Genomics. 13:516. 10.1186/1471-2164-13-516. PMID: 23025665; PMCID: PMC3534234
  • Sillé FCM, Thomas R, Smith MT, Conde L, Skibola CF. (2012). Post-GWAS functional characterization of susceptibility variants for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. PLoS ONE. 7(1):e29632. 10.1371/journal.pone.0029632. PMID: 22235315; PMCID: PMC3250464
Study alterations in immune function in adults upon drinking water arsenic exposures during childhood in Region II, Chile