Researcher biography

I am an enthusiastic immunologist with strong background in molecular biology techniques, including transcriptional profiling and vaccine development (Cruz JL et al., J Virol, 2013; Cruz JL et al., PloS Pathogens, 2011). I have been developing my professional, research and project management skills, as well as contributing intellectually and technically on several diverse academic and industry-based projects, since I began my PhD.

During my Undergraduate Biology studies I was awarded an “Introduction to Research Fellowship” by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Education, in order to allow me to join the laboratory of Dr León Barrios and Dr Pérez Galdona at the University of La Laguna. In 2006, I received my Bachelor Degree in Biology Summa Cum Laude (with highest honours), which was followed by postgraduate training at The National Centre of Biotechnology, Spain. I obtained a 4-year PhD Scholarship from the Community of Madrid where I worked in the development of genetically modified vaccines to protect against viral diseases in collaboration with Pfizer®’s animal healthcare division (Cruz JL et.,Virus Res, 2010). In parallel, I described a novel mechanism employed by RNA viruses to evade host innate immunity and modulate the host anti-viral transcriptional profile (Cruz JL et al.,PloS Pathogens, 2011; Cruz et al, J Virol, 2013). During this time I published 6 papers, 3 as a first author in highly rated journals, such as PLOs Pathogens and J. Virology. In 2011, I received my PhD in Molecular Biology with highest grades (Summa Cum Laude).

In 2013, I was awarded a 2-year fellowship from the Bayer-Humboldt Foundation to work as a researcher at the Heinrich Pette-Institute of Experimental Virology (HPI), Germany. I focused on mechanisms that govern the initiation of the adaptive immune response at the natural portal of entry of human viruses, such as the respiratory tract (influenza A virus, IAV) and the skin surface (Rift Valley Fever virus, RVFV), work that led to two publications, including a J. Immunology and one as a first author in the European J. of Immunology. ([…] Cruz JL, et al.,J Immunol, 2014; Cruz et al., Europ J Immunol, 2016).

In 2015, I joined the Wells Group at The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, were I was awarded with a 3-year UQ early career fellowship. My research was focused on the development of novel immunotherapies/vaccines for virally associated cancers by regulating the function of cytotoxic T-cells. In 2016, I was awarded with the 3-year UQ-postdoctoral fellowship. During my time at the institute I have received the UQ Travel Award (2016), the UQDI Early career Travel Award (2017) and the Keystone Symposium Travel Award (2017).

In 2019, under the mentorship of Professor Ian Frazer, Dr. Cruz was awarded a 4-year Garnet Passe & Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation grant to develop her research program focused on uncovering mechanisms involved in the immune suppression of cancer patients. Currently, Dr. Cruz leads the Cancer Immunology and Therapy group at the Translational Research Institute and believes that understanding those cancer-led immunosuppression processes in a subset of Head and Neck cancer, Oropharyngeal Squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) and cutaneous SCC, is key to provide new focal points for the development of therapeutic strategies aimed at supporting immune function in H&N patients. To unveil these pathways, her team is profiling the blood and tumours of patients with high-throughput technologies, such as 10X Genomics Spatial Visium, Nanostring DSP GeoMX, Phenocycler and multiparametric flow cytometry. Dr. Cruz group foresees that, the correlation of each patient’s disease profile with their clinical history will help to predict the likelihood of future patients to respond to treatment and will assist in the selection of tailored approaches based on each patient’s own disease characteristics.

I successfully collaborate on interdisciplinary projects in Australia and overseas, including professional collaborations with Dr. Fiona Simpson (Translational Research Institute, Brisbane), with Dr. Roberta Mazzieri and Prof. Richardo Dolcetti (TRI, Brisbane), with Prof. Nicole La Gruta (Monash University, Melbourne), with A/Prof. Scott Byrne (Sydney Medical School), with Prof. Sine Reker Hadrup (National Veterinary Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen), with Juan Carlos Oliveros and Dr. Silvia Gutierrez (National Centre of Biotechnology, Madrid), and an industrial collaboration with Jingang and Vaxxas (Brisbane).

I am an active member of the scientific community at the University of Queensland participating as member of several committees, such as SBMS honours student, TRI BRF committees and Deputy Chair of the animal Ethics committee and I externally contribute by acting as an expert in the evaluation of Spanish research projects.

I collaborate with Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF) acting as an awareness ambassador and I volunteer for Precious Paws Animal Rescue (PPAR) providing a home to dogs in need until they find their FURever family.