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Professor of Health Sciences and Technology

Shiv Pillai

Professor of Health Sciences and Technology

Professor of Medicine


Shiv Pillai MD, PhD is a Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard Medical School. He is the Program Director of an NIH Funded Autoimmune Center of Excellence at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Director of the Masters in Medical Sciences in Immunology Program at Harvard Medical School.


Dr. Pillai coined the term “surrogate light chains” for proteins that he identified (with David Baltimore), as part of a novel receptor, now known as the pre-B receptor,  that drives early B cell development. His laboratory at MGH postulated and provided evidence for the first ligand-independent signaling model during lymphocyte development, now a widely accepted mechanism for both pre-B receptor and pre-T receptor signaling. His laboratory also showed that Btk, the product of the gene mutated in X-linked agammaglobulinemia, is functionally linked to the pre-B receptor and the B cell receptor. His group defined a functional niche for B cells (around sinusoids in the bone marrow), identified the first two mutants that abrogate marginal zone B lymphocyte development, developed the concept of a follicular versus marginal zone B lymphoid cell-fate decision, and discovered two new defined stages of peripheral B cell development, the marginal zone precursor (MZP) B cell, and the Follicular type II B cell.