Dr. Ojesina is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he runs the Oncopathogenomics Laboratory. The underlying hypothesis for his research is that microorganisms (like viruses and bacteria) cooperate with changes in human genes to influence how cancer develops, grows, spreads, and responds to treatment. This research involves the use of cutting-edge genomic analyses and laboratory experiments to investigate multi-ethnic patient samples, laboratory cell lines and animal models. The knowledge gained will be leveraged into developing new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
Dr. Ojesina obtained his medical training (with Distinction in Biochemistry) at the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. After a short stint on the faculty of his alma mater, he obtained a PhD in Biological Sciences in Public Health at Harvard University. During his doctoral work in the laboratory of Dr. Phyllis Kanki, he identified molecular determinants of antiretroviral drug resistance in the HIV-1 subtypes prevalent in West Africa. Thereafter, he completed a Damon Runyon postdoctoral fellowship under the tutelage of Dr. Matthew Meyerson at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. During this time, he led the first whole exome and whole genome sequencing-based characterization of cervical cancer and co-developed a computational subtraction tool (PathSeq) for pathogen discovery from next generation sequencing data.
Prior to being at MCW, he was at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he developed an international reputation as a leading expert in the genomics of infection-related cancer, with his research being funded by the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the Avon Foundation for Women and the National Cancer Institute. He also served as a leader in multiple landmark projects including the TCGA Cervical Cancer Analysis Working Group, the NCI HIV+ Tumor Molecular Characterization Project Working Group on Cervical Cancer, and the NCI Cervical Cancer Clinical Trials Planning Workgroup.
Highlights of his previous and ongoing contributions to the field include (i) the identification of novel genomic drivers and putative therapeutic targets in cancer, (ii) comprehensive molecular classification of infection-related cancers, (iii) genomic characterization of oft-ignored atypical subsets of cervical cancer, including those associated with extrachromosomal HPV and those that occur independently of HPV infection, and (iv) identification of microbial determinants of cancer prognosis, (v) characterization of race/ethnicity-related tumor microbiome profiles across multiple cancers, and (vi) functional characterization of signaling pathways associated with MAPK1-mutant and MSN-mutant tumors.
Dr. Ojesina’s research lies at the nexus of translational genomics, metatranscriptomics, precision oncology, virology, tumor microbiome, immunotherapy, women’s health and global health. It has great potential for translational impact by facilitating the development of diagnostic biomarkers and predictive models for early detection, prevention and treatment of various cancers, in local and global contexts.