Cristina Tato

Associate Director, Rapid Response Team

How did you become interested in science?

I’ve always had an interest in science. My mom was a nurse and my dad had a chemistry background so I was exposed to science at home from a very young age. Biology was always one of my favorite classes in school, especially anatomy labs, and because I was a high school athlete and a dancer, I decided to major in physical therapy in college.  However, as I became increasingly interested in the biomechanics of movement, I decided to pursue exercise physiology instead.  Physiology is where anatomy, physics and chemistry come together and, for me, this is a fascinating aspect of biology.


What was your educational path?

I studied exercise physiology as an undergraduate at Ithaca College, and from there went on to earn a Master’s degree in public health policy and education in my home state of New Jersey. Working in public health meant I had to dive into a lot of scientific articles. From there I got interested in the research that people were doing, specifically in infectious disease and immunology, and so decided to volunteer in a lab that worked on vaccine development and cancer immunotherapy. My very first project involved isolating and sequencing the gut bacteria of mice.  While working in that lab, I applied and was accepted into the biomedical graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania, where I earned a PhD in immunology. My research focused on the regulation and production of cytokines and their role in host resistance to parasitic infection.

My post-doctoral work at NIAMS-NIH involved studying cytokine signaling pathways, specifically those involving the STAT family of transcription factors, and their role in the development of inflammation and host immunity.  After moving to California, I continued working as a post-doctoral fellow at what was then Schering-Plough Biopharma. My work there focused on the role of the IL-23 production during infection and autoimmune inflammation.

Most recently, I was at the Stanford School of Medicine as a research and science analyst in the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection.  There, my focus was on the tactical application of human systems immunology methods towards the study of health, disease and vaccine efficacy.  I also contributed to the strategic planning and writing of interdisciplinary research proposals, and facilitated collaborative efforts between member scientists and physicians. Collaboration is one of the best – and most fun – aspects of doing great science.


What brought you to CZ Biohub?

When Mark and Priscilla made their announcement and revealed there would be a global health component, I thought it was extremely compelling. I saw a potential opportunity to combine my public health and immunology expertise together, particularly as it relates to infectious disease.  After hearing more about the progressive vision that Joe and Steve had for CZ Biohub, I felt it would be an exciting place to be.

Peter Kim brought me on as a consultant; he wanted to hear my ideas on strategic planning for the rapid response team. Then eventually Joe and Steve asked me to come on board full time.  How could I say no?


When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

I like to spend time with my family, and usually that involves running, hiking, going to the beach with our dog, and learning to cook and bake new things! Having grown up on the East Coast, I like to take full advantage of what the Bay Area has to offer.


Educational Background

  • BS – Ithaca College
    Exercise Physiology
  • MPH – University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
    Public Health Policy and Education
  • PhD – University of Pennsylvania
  • Post Doc – National Institutes of Health
    Focused on cytokine signaling pathways
  • Post Doc – Schering-Plough Biopharma
    Focused on the role of cytokines in infectious disease and inflammation

Joe DeRisi

University of California, San Francisco

Stephen Quake

Stanford University

At CZ Biohub, we create opportunities for individuals to reach their full potential. We do this by bringing together brilliant scientists and engineers who see opportunities in every challenge. These individuals are united by a common passion – solving previously impossible problems.