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October 23, 2020

Meet the Scholar: Christian Gaebler, MD
By Editorial Staff

Dr. Christian Gaebler joined the Clin­ical Scholars program at the Rockefeller University in 2018. He received his MD from the Charité-Universitaetsmedizin in Germany and completed his internal medicine and infectious disease resi­dency at the same distinguished institu­tion. He currently is a third year Clinical Scholar and serves as Co-chief Clinical Scholar.

As a medical student, Dr. Gaebler quickly realized how little is known about the pathophysiology of disease and in many cases even less about the mecha­nism of successful treatments. He found this disappointing but intriguing which inspired him to learn the pathophysiol­ogy of disease with the intent of discov­ering new treatments.

Complex systems, such as the nervous system and the immune system, espe­cially fascinated Dr. Gaebler and so he was attracted to immunology research in Dr. Michel Nussenzweig’s Laboratory of Molecular Immunology at Rockefeller University. He interviewed with Dr. Nus­senzweig and was invited to join his lab.

Dr. Gaebler’s current research focuses on the HIV latent reservoir and how the treatment with anti-HIV broadly neutral­izing antibodies developed by Dr. Nus­senzweig’s lab impacts the HIV-reservoir. Recently, he shifted some of his efforts to studying SARS-CoV-2. In fact, since April 1, his lab has recruited more than 150 COVID-19 convalescent individuals and studied the SARS- CoV-2 specific immune responses in these individuals. He and his colleagues have also identi­fied distinct antibodies that neutralize the virus very potently and several of these are being further developed as therapeu­tic and preventive drugs. (https://www.rockefeller.edu/news/28079-covid19-an­tibody-response/)

With his shift to SARS-CoV-2 re­search came challenges and opportuni­ties. When asked to reflect on theses, Dr. Gaebler responded:

“The pandemic required us to shift our focus on a completely new research subject and work with unprecedented ur­gency and speed. At the same time, the difficulties outside of the lab and especial­ly the abrupt shortfall of any support sys­tem, especially with regard to child care, were overwhelming. The challenge of my wife and I both being essential workers and working full time (and often more intensely and longer than ever) while also taking care of our 2-year-old toddler at the same time was physically and psycho­logically extremely tough.”

“The highlights were the experience of everyone coming together and working towards one goal. The motivation and dedication of everyone, including our research participants was beyond impres­sive!”

Dr. Gaebler was asked to describe his experience in the Clinical Scholars pro­gram, focusing on his expectations when joining the program, what he is looking forward to as Co-chief Scholar this year, and his plans for when he graduates the program.

“I was hoping for a stimulating and well-mentored research environment in a group of peers with the same background, concerns, and career planning questions. My expectations were met a thousand times, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity that this program has given me. Often I have to remind myself that this is real and pinch myself when we are for example eating lunch and having sci­entific discussions with an expert of his field. The whole program is a learning op­portunity. It is hard to point out specific occasions.

As Co-chief Scholar I am hoping to give back and contribute to the program in a way that we make the best of the cur­rent challenges and create a curriculum that is valuable for all current Scholars.