Alma-Martina Cepika,

Physician Scientist

Stanford University School of Medicine


Dr. Cepika is an immunologist with an extensive background in translational research, autoimmunity, autoinflammation, and human systems immunology. Her goal is to understand the mechanisms governing immunological tolerance, and to leverage this knowledge to cure currently incurable diseases.

Dr. Cepika received her MD degree and a PhD in Immunology from the University of Zagreb School of Medicine in Croatia. There, she focused on the immunomonitoring of patients with lupus, identifying how circulating DNA levels changed with therapy. Subsequently, she joined the lab of Dr. Virginia Pascual at the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Pascual had previously discovered that IL-1beta is a key pathogenic player in systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (sJIA), but the immune alterations contributing to IL-1beta-mediated inflammation remained unknown. To address this, Dr. Cepika developed a 3D in vitro stimulation assay to evaluate immune responses of blood leukocytes of pediatric sJIA patients. In combination with integrated bioinformatics analysis, this approach identified aberrant cellular responses, transcriptional pathways and genes that shed new light on immune dysregulation in sJIA. This assay can be further applied to dissect underlying immunopathogenic mechanisms in many human disorders.

Currently, Dr. Cepika is an Instructor in the Pediatric Division of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. There, she is working to uncover the underlying molecular mechanisms that govern the differentiation and function of type 1 regulatory T (Tr1) cells, and use this knowledge to design Tr1 cell-based therapies to improve the outcomes of patients with cancer, autoimmunity, or receiving allogeneic cell or organ transplants.

Academic Appointments

– Instructor, Pediatrics – Stem Cell Transplantation
– Member, Maternal & Child Health Research Institute (MCHRI)
– Member, Stanford Cancer Institute

Honors & Awards

  • Translational Research Grant, SPARK at Stanford (2022)
  • Early Career Research Grant, National Blood Foundation (2021)
  • Pilot Grant (competitive renewal), Translational Research and Applied Medicine (TRAM) Center, Stanford Medicine (2021)
  • Pilot Grant, Translational Research and Applied Medicine (TRAM) Center, Stanford Medicine (2020)
  • Best Short Talk Award, North Texas Flow Cytometry Conference (2016)
  • Best Poster Award, ESF-EMBO symposium, “B cells: Complexity, Integration and Translation” (2008)
  • Full Scholarship, Leadership and Management of Health Services, Andrija Stampar School of Public Health, School of Medicine, University of Zagreb (2006)
  • Best Poster Award, Annual Meeting of Croatian Immunological Society (2005)
  • Dean’s Award for Best Student Research, School of Medicine, University of Zagreb (2002)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • member, American Society for Cell and Gene Therapy (2020 – Present)
  • member, Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS) (2017 – Present)
  • member, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) (2017 – 2019)
  • member, Croatian Medical Chamber (2004 – Present)
  • member, Croatian Society for Immunology (2004 – 2010)

Professional Education

  • Post-Doctoral Fellow, Baylor Institute For Immunology Research, Immunology / Autoinflammation (2016)
  • PhD, School of Medicine, University of Zagreb, Immunology (2012)
  • MD, School of Medicine, University of Zagreb, Medicine (2002)


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