Phillip Popovich

The Ohio State University, USA

Phillip Popovich completed his PhD training in Physiology and Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, Ohio. As a post-doctoral fellow, also at OSU, he was awarded a Sandoz Research Fellowship that supported his formal training in immunology and CNS autoimmune disease.

His unique multi-disciplinary training pedigree allowed him to quickly establish a novel research program focused on understanding the neuroimmunology of CNS injury and repair. Today, this is among the hottest research topics in the SCI field. His lab showed that SCI has significant effects on shaping the functional properties of innate (e.g., macrophages) and adaptive (T and B lymphocytes) immune cells. Recently, his group showed that macrophages can be reprogrammed such that they exert distinct effects on neuron survival and axon growth. This new insight provides unique opportunities to develop novel immune-modulatory therapies. Other data from his lab has shown that systemic immune function, a necessary prerequisite for defense against pathogens, is suppressed after high-level SCI but becomes hyperactive when injuries occur at lower spinal levels (e.g., mid-thoracic spine). These data are of clinical relevance as they provide a mechanistic explanation for the higher frequency of infectious morbidity and mortality in tetraplegic individuals.

Popovich is currently Professor and Director of OSU’s Center for Brain and Spinal Cord Repair where he holds the Ray W. Poppleton Research Designated Chair.