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Saef Izzy, MD, MBChB
2023 Winner: Saef Izzy, MD, MBChB

Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Associate Neurologist, Division of Neurocritical Care and Cerebrovascular Diseases, Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases, Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital


Novel immune therapy to promote neurological recovery after traumatic brain injury

In traumatic brain injury (TBI), persistent neuroinflammation contributes to disease progression and poor outcomes. Microglia — brain cells that regulate brain development, maintenance of neuronal networks, and injury repair — play a critical role in the neuroinflammatory response following injury. Dr. Izzy and his team have discovered that nasal administration of anti-CD3, which stimulates regulatory immune cells to travel to the brain, can reduce the inflammatory nature of microglia and encourage these cells to be more protective rather than disease-inducing. When nasal anti-CD3 was administered within 4 hours of brain injury in animal models, the team found decreased neuroinflammation and improved neurological outcomes.

With Stepping Strong Center funding, Dr. Izzy plans to test whether the beneficial effects remain even after stopping treatment, as well as expanding the treatment window. His team will administer the nasal anti-CD3 at 24 and 72 hours after TBI in animal models and determine the effects on the brain and immune system over time. This research will allow for a better understanding of the role of the neuroinflammatory response after injury and potentially offer a novel therapeutic option to improve the long-term quality of life and neurological outcomes for millions of Americans with TBI.


Saef Izzy, MD, MBChB, is an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and an assistant neurologist in the Division of Neurocritical Care and Cerebrovascular Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dr. Izzy attended the University of Baghdad College of Medicine, completed his residency at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and pursued a fellowship at Mass General Brigham. After finishing his clinical training, Dr. Izzy established his laboratory under the mentorship of Dr. Howard Weiner, which centers on understanding the underlying immune mechanisms associated with stroke and acute brain injury and their responses to therapy. Within the lab, he aims to identify novel biomarkers and therapeutics that target the immune response and improve neurological outcomes after disease or injury. Dr. Izzy’s laboratory interests include immunoregulation in acute neurological disease, mucosal immunology, microglia, and immune mechanisms in other neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.

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