Chris Kepley

Professor of Immunology


  • PhD, Microbiology and Immunology, Medical College of Virginia, 1995
  • MBA, College of William and Mary, 2006
  • BS, Biology, James Madison University, 1987

Courses Taught

  • Biomedical Foundations – BFOM
  • Hematology and Oncology – HO
  • Cardiovascular Respiratory Hematologic System – CVRH
  • Gastrointestinal System and Nutrition – GINUTRI

Professional Memberships

  • Fellow, American Academy Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI)
  • American Association of Immunology (AAI)
  • Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SIC)


Christopher Kepley, PhD, is an immunologist and cancer immunotherapy researcher. His research focuses on a new strategy for adoptive cell transfer targeting to target and destroy tumor antigens. He is also researching the role of human mast cells in the pathology of alpha-gal (meat) allergy. Much of his work has involved understanding the cellular signaling pathways of human mast cells and basophils, the effects of nanomaterials on the immune system, and translating academic inspired ideas into useful products.

Dr. Kepley is a leading expert in human mast cell biology and has a new technology to harness the allergic response for cancer immunotherapy. He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications, several issued and pending patents, and serves on the editorial board for several journals.  His research was recognized internationally as the recipient of the Phadia Allergy Research Forum Award, the most prestigious international award in allergy research; and the Henning Løwenstein International Research Award for excellence in allergy research.  His teaching was recognized as the 2022 All Southern Conference Faculty Teaching award. Dr. Kepley is also the co-Founder of Kepley Biosystems Inc. that provides solutions for ocean sustainability.

Research Funding

  1. National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, (1R15CA246430-01A1), “Studies examining efficacy and quantitative in vivo imaging of breast cancer-targeted, therapeutically enhanced human mast cells,” Role: PI.
  2. Virginia Innovation Partnership, “Commercialization of a sustainable crustacean bait”, Role: PI
  3. National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, (1R21CA286364-01), “Chimeric antigen receptor mast cells”, Role: Co-I.
  4. National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease, (1K08AI141691-01A1) “A role for glycolipids and unconventional T cell subsets in alpha-gal allergy,” Role: Co-I.
  5. National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, “Quantification of human mast cell binding to cancer cell”, Role: PI (completed 2024).

Honors and Awards

  • Member of the National Faculty the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME), in the Clinical Department of Foundational Biomedical Sciences – Microbiology/Immunology Division
  • Southern Conference Faculty Award for Teaching
  • Nominated for the Piedmont Triad Biotechnology Excellence Awards, Academic Development Excellence Award, N.C. Biotechnology Center
  • Winner of the Phadia Allergy Research Forum Award, European Academy of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, London, UK
  • Research Recognition Award, VCU School of Medicine
  • Recipient of the Henning Løwenstein International Research Award for excellence in allergy research, London, UK
  • First to be awarded the AAAAI Award for Outstanding Research Published in the J Allergy and Clinical Immunology
  • Pharmacia International Allergy Research Foundation Fellowship


  1. Rebecca Praetzal and Kepley, CL, Human Lung Mast Cells as a Possible Reservoir for Coronavirus; an Unrecognized Mechanism for Sars-Cov-2 Immune-Mediated Pathology, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, submitted, 6/2024.
  2. Elnaz Ahzini, Mohammad Ferydoini, and Kepley, CL, Identification and characterization of tunneling nanotubes involved in human mast cell FceRI-mediated apoptosis of cancer cells, Cancers, 2022 Jun 14;14(12):2944. doi: 10.3390/cancers14122944.
  3. Rebecca Praetzal, Mohammad Fereydouni, Mona Motaghed, Kepley, CL, Human mast cell progenitor spheroids give rise to mature mast cells in vitro. Cureus, 02/06/2024, doi: 10.7759/cureus.53708.
  4. Fereydouni M, Motaghed M, Ahani E, Kafri T, Dellinger K, Metcalfe DD, Kepley CL, Harnessing the Anti-Tumor Mediators in Mast Cells as a New Strategy for Adoptive Cell Transfer for Cancer, Front Oncol. 2022 Mar 31;12:830199. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2022.830199.
  5. Onyinye Iweala, Mohammad Fereydouni, Mona Motaghed, Camille Kapita, Scott Commins, Kepley, CL, Alpha-gal Induced Mediator Release by Human Mast Cells, Allergy Clin. Immunol. Volume 145, issue 2, February 01, 2020.
  6. Jesse D. Plotkin, Michael Elias, Tracy R. Daniels-Wells, Anthony Dellinger, Manuel L. Penichet, Kepley, CL, Human Mast Cells from Adipose Tissue Target and Induce Apoptosis of Breast Cancer Cells, Frontiers in Immunology, February 8, 2019.
  7. Ke Zhang, Michael Elias, Hong Zhang, Jeffrey Liu, Kepley, CL, Yun Bai, Dean Metcalfe, Zachary Schille, Yang Wang, Andrew Saxon. Inhibition of allergic reactivity through targeting FceRI-bound IgE with humanized low affinity antibodies, Immunology, October 21, 2019.
  8. Jesse D. Plotkin, Michael G. Elias, Anthony L. Dellinger, and Kepley, CL, NF-κB Inhibitors that Prevent Foam Cell Formation and Atherosclerotic Plaque Accumulation, Nanomedicine, 2017 Aug;13(6):2037-2048.
  9. Dellinger, J. Plotkin, Duncan L. Robertson T. Brady, Kepley, CL, A synthetic crustacean bait to stem forage fish depletion, Global Ecology and Conservation, 2016, 7 (2016) 238.
  10. Woodfolk JA, Glesner J, Wright PW, Kepley, CL, Li M, Himly M, Muehling LM, Gustchina A, Wlodawer A, Chapman MD, Pomés A. Antigenic determinants of the bilobal cockroach allergen Bla g 2. Biol. Chem. Dec 7, 2015
  11. Anthony Dellinger and Kepley, CL. Nanoscience and Nanoengineering: Advances and Applications. (1st Edition, Book Chapter), Kelkar, Herr, and Ryan, Editors, 2015.
  12. Dellinger AL, Cunin P, Lee D, Kung AL, Brooks DB, Zhou Z, Nigrovic PA, Kepley, CL. Inhibition of inflammatory arthritis using fullerene nanomaterials. PLOS One. 2015 Apr 16;10(4).
  13. Effat Zeidan, Kepley, CL, Christie Sayes, and Marinella G. Sandros. Surface plasmon resonance: a label-free tool for cellular analysis. Nanomedicine, 2015;10(11):1833-46.
  14. Dellinger, A and Kepley, CL. Study examining fullerene toxicity raises questions as to the purity of the nanomaterials and erroneous experimental conclusions. Toxicological Sciences, 2014 Oct;141(2):326-7.
  15. Jun-Xia Wang, Sarah Ameri, Nadia Fishgal, Daniel Dwyer, Anthony Dellinger, Kepley, CL, Michael F. Gurish, and Peter A. Nigrovic. The IL-33/ST2 axis supports mast cell survival via BCLXL. Natl. Acad. Sci. 2014 Jul 15;111(28):10281-6.
  16. Anthony Dellinger, Peter Nigrovic, Bryce Duncan, Ashley Turner, David Lee, Andrew Kung, Zhiguo Zhou, Kepley, CL. Inhibition of Inflammatory Arthritis using Fullerene Nanomaterials. PLOS One, Apr 16;10(4), 2016.
  17. Anthony Dellinger, Zhiguo Zhou, Kepley, CL. A new steroid-mimicking nanomaterial that mediates inhibition of human lung mast cells responses. Nanomedicine, 2014 Aug;10(6):1185-93.
  18. Anthony Dellinger, John Olson, Zhiguo Zhou, Kerry Link, Marinella Sandros, and Kepley, CL. Detection of atherosclerotic plaque by magnetic resonance imaging using biomarker-targeting contrast agents. Cardiovasc. Magn. Reson. 2013 Jan 16;15:7.
  19. Sarah K. Norton, Dayanjan S. Wijesinghe, Anthony Dellinger, Jamie Sturgill, Zhiguo Zhou, Suzanne Barbour, Charles Chalfant, Daniel H. Conrad, Kepley, CL. Epoxyeicosatrienoic Acids Are Involved in the C70 Fullerene Derivative Induced Control of Allergic Asthma. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 2012 Sep;130(3):761-769.
  20. Kepley, CL. Fullerenes in Nanomedicine; Will it Ever Occur? Editorial for J. Nanomedicine and Nanotechnology, Volume 3, Issue 6, July, 2012.
  21. Zhao W, Gomez G, Macey M, Kepley, CL, Schwartz LB. In Vitro Desensitization of Human Skin Mast Cells. Clin. Immunol. 2012 Feb;32(1):150-60.
  22. Norton SK, Dellinger A, Zhou Z, Lenk R, Macfarland D, Vonakis B, Kepley, CL et al. A new class of human mast cell and peripheral blood basophil stabilizers that differentially control allergic mediator release. Transl. Sci. 2010; 3:158-69.
  23. Nigrovic PA, Malbec O, Lu B, Markiewski MM, Kepley, CL, Gerard N, et al. C5a receptor enables participation of mast cells in immune complex arthritis independently of Fcgamma receptor modulation. Arthritis Rheum. 2010; 62:3322-33.
  24. Ehrich M, Tassell RV, Li Y, Zhou Z, Kepley, CL. Fullerene antioxidants decrease organophosphate-induced acetylcholinesterase inhibition in vitro. In Vitro 2010; 25(1):301-7.
  25. Dellinger A, Zhou Z, Norton SK, Lenk R, Conrad D, Kepley, CL. Uptake and distribution of fullerenes in human mast cells. Nanomedicine, 2010; 6:575-82.
  26. Zhou Z, Lenk R, Dellinger A, MacFarland D, Kumar K, Wilson SR, Kepley, CL et al. Fullerene nanomaterials potentiate hair growth. Nanomedicine, 2009; 5:202-7.
  27. Tagen M, Elorza A, Kempuraj D, Boucher W, Kepley, CL, Shirihai OS, et al. Mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 inhibits mast cell activation and reduces histamine content. Immunol 2009; 183:6313-9.
  28. Dellinger A, Zhou Z, Lenk R, MacFarland D, Kepley, CL . Fullerene nanomaterials inhibit phorbol myristate acetate-induced inflammation. Dermatology 2009; 18:1079-81.
  29. Saxon A, Kepley, CL, Zhang K. “Accentuate the negative, eliminate the positive”: engineering allergy therapeutics to block allergic reactivity through negative signaling. Allergy Clin Immunol 2008; 121:320-5.
  30. MacFarland DK, Walker KL, Lenk RP, Wilson SR, Kumar K, Kepley, CL, et al. Hydrochalarones: a novel endohedral metallofullerene platform for enhancing magnetic resonance imaging contrast. Med Chem 2008; 51:3681-3.
  31. Li M, Gustchina A, Alexandratos J, Wlodawer A, Wunschmann S, Kepley, CL, et al. Crystal structure of a dimerized cockroach allergen Bla g 2 complexed with a monoclonal antibody. J. Biol Chem 2008; 283:22806-14.
  32. Kennedy Norton S, Barnstein B, Brenzovich J, Bailey DP, Kashyap M, Speiran K, Kepley, CL. IL-10 suppresses mast cell IgE receptor expression and signaling in vitro and in vivo. Immunol 2008; 180:2848-54.
  33. Ryan JJ, Bateman HR, Stover A, Gomez G, Norton SK, Zhao W, Kepley, CL. Fullerene nanomaterials inhibit the allergic response. J Immunol 2007; 179:665-72.
  34. Gomez G, Schwartz L, Kepley, CL. Syk deficiency in human non-releaser lung mast cells. Clin. Immunol 2007; 125:112-5.
  35. Allen LC, Kepley, CL, Saxon A, Zhang K. Modifications to an Fcgamma-Fcvarepsilon fusion protein alter its effectiveness in the inhibition of FceRI-mediated functions. Allergy Clin Immunol 2007; 120:462-8.
  36. Zhao W, Kepley, CL, Morel PA, Okumoto LM, Fukuoka Y, Schwartz LB. Fc gamma RIIa, not Fc gamma RIIb, is constitutively and functionally expressed on skin-derived human mast cells. Immunol 2006; 177:694-701.
  37. Kepley, CL, Novel Approaches to Immunotherapy, Current Allergy and Asthma Reports. 2006 Sep; 6(5):427-33.
  38. Wright HV, Bailey D, Kashyap M, Kepley, CL, Drutskaya MS, Nedospasov SA, et al. IL-3-mediated TNF production is necessary for mast cell development. Immunol 2006; 176:2114-21.
  39. Kepley, CL. New approaches to allergen immunotherapy. Allergy Asthma Rep. 2006; 6:427-33.
  40. *(Zhu D, Kepley, CL), Zhang K, Terada T, Yamada T, Saxon A. A chimeric human-cat fusion protein blocks cat-induced allergy. Nature Medicine, 2005; 11:446-9. *Both contributed equally
  41. Kepley, CL. Antigen-induced reduction in mast cell and basophil functional responses due to reduced Syk protein levels. Arch. Allergy Immunol. 2005; 138:29-39.
  42. Gomez G, Ramirez CD, Rivera J, Patel M, Kepley, CL, Norozian F, Wright HV, et al. TGFb1 inhibits mast cell Fc epsilon RI expression. Immunol 2005; 174:5987-93.
  43. Zhang K, Kepley, CL, Terada T, Zhu D, Perez H, Saxon A. Inhibition of allergen-specific IgE reactivity by a human Ig Fcg-Fce bifunctional fusion protein. Allergy Clin Immunol 2004; 114:321-7.
  44. Saxon A, Zhu D, Zhang K, Allen LC, Kepley, CL. Genetically engineered negative signaling molecules in the immunomodulation of allergic diseases. Opin Allergy Clin. Immunol 2004; 4:563-8.
  45. Kepley, CL, Taghavi S, Mackay G, Zhu D, Morel PA, Zhang K, et al. Co-aggregation of FceRI with FcgRII on human mast cells inhibits antigen-induced secretion and involves SHIP-Grb2-Dok complexes. Biol Chem 2004; 279:35139-49.
  46. Kepley, CL, Zhang K, Zhu D, Saxon A. FceRI-FceRII coaggregation inhibits IL-16 production from human Langerhans-like dendritic cells. Immunol 2003; 108:89-94.
  47. Kepley, CL, Lauer FT, Oliver JM, Burchiel SW. Environmental polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzo(a) pyrene (BaP) and BaP-quinones, enhance IgE-mediated histamine release and IL-4 production in human basophils. Immunol 2003; 107:10-9.
  48. Kepley, CL, Cohen N. Evidence for human mast cell nonreleaser phenotype. Allergy Clin Immunol 2003; 112:457-9.
  49. *(Zhu D, Kepley, CL), Zhang M, Zhang K, Saxon A. A novel human immunoglobulin Fcg-Fce bifunctional fusion protein inhibits FceRI-mediated degranulation. Nature Medicine, 2002; 8:518-21. *Both contributed equally.
  50. Kepley, CL, Andrews RP, Brown DC, Chigaev A, Sklar LA, Oliver JM, et al. Regulation of human basophil adhesion to endothelium under flow conditions: Different very late antigen 4 regulation on umbilical cord blood-derived and peripheral blood basophils. Allergy Clin Immunol 2002; 110:469-75.
  51. Andrews RP, Kepley, CL, Youssef L, Wilson BS, Oliver JM. Regulation of the very late antigen-4-mediated adhesive activity of normal and nonreleaser basophils: roles for Src, Syk, and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase. Leukoc Biol2001; 70:776-82.

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