hero image
Pere Santamaria - Diabetes Canada. Calgary, AB, CA

Pere Santamaria Pere Santamaria

Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Infectious Diseases | Diabetes Canada

Calgary, AB, CANADA

Looking at the immunogenetics and immunopathogenesis of autoimmune disorders, with a particular focus on type 1 diabetes.





2013 ASTech Awards Honouree - Dr. Pere Santamaria Pere Santamaria



The main focus of Dr. Santamaria’s scientific career has been to try to understand the immunogenetics and immunopathogenesis of autoimmune disorders, with a particular focus on type 1 diabetes, to try to find targets for therapeutic intervention.

Early efforts focused on the relationship between genetic susceptibility and resistance to autoimmunity and T-cell tolerance. This work culminated in the discovery of a new therapeutic platform for the treatment of chronic inflammatory disorders based on nanomedicine. This therapeutic approach triggers the formation of extensive antigen- and disease-specific networks of regulatory T and β-cells that efficiently suppress the progression of several different autoimmune disorders without compromising systemic immunity.

Current efforts focus on dissecting the mechanisms that sustain and regulate these regulatory cellular networks, the developmental origin(s) of their cellular components and the molecules that control cell-to-cell communication within the networks. Mice humanized with peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients are used to select candidate nanomedicines for clinical development. Ultimately, Santamaria’s goal is to bring this new technology to the clinic.

Industry Expertise (3)


Health Care - Providers

Health and Wellness

Areas of Expertise (4)

Autoimmune Diseases

Type 1 Diabetes


Therapeutic Intervention

Education (2)

University of Barcelona: MD, Medicine 1983

University of Barcelona: PhD, Medicine 1987

Affiliations (2)

  • Group Leader : Institut d’Investigacions Biomediques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS) Barcelona Spain
  • Founder : Parvis Therapeutics

Media Appearances (1)

Calgary researchers working on new way to treat autoimmune diseases

CBC Calgary  online


Dr. Pere Santamaria said they've found a class of drugs that selectively targets cells that cause autoimmune diseases like Type I diabetes and multiple scleroisis without impairing a patient's immune system.

view more

Articles (5)

Expanding antigen-specific regulatory networks to treat autoimmunity Nature


Regulatory T cells hold promise as targets for therapeutic intervention in autoimmunity, but approaches capable of expanding antigen-specific regulatory T cells in vivo are currently not available. Here we show that systemic delivery of nanoparticles coated with autoimmune-disease-relevant peptides bound to major histocompatibility complex class II (pMHCII) molecules triggers the generation and expansion of antigen-specific regulatory CD4+ T cell type 1 (TR1)-like cells in different mouse models, including mice humanized with lymphocytes from patients, leading to resolution of established autoimmune phenomena.

view more

Reversal of Autoimmunity by Boosting Memory-like Autoregulatory T Cells Immunity


Blunting autoreactivity without compromising immunity remains an elusive goal in the treatment of autoimmunity. We show that progression to autoimmune diabetes results in the conversion of naive low-avidity autoreactive CD8+ T cells into memory-like autoregulatory cells that can be expanded in vivo with nanoparticles coated with disease-relevant peptide-major histocompatibility complexes (pMHC-NP).

view more

Interleukin-2 gene variation impairs regulatory T cell function and causes autoimmunity Nature Genetics


Autoimmune diseases are thought to result from imbalances in normal immune physiology and regulation. Here, we show that autoimmune disease susceptibility and resistance alleles on mouse chromosome 3 (Idd3) correlate with differential expression of the key immunoregulatory cytokine interleukin-2 (IL-2).

view more

Prevention of diabetes by manipulation of anti-IGRP autoimmunity: high efficiency of a low-affinity peptide Nature Medicine


Antigen therapy may hold great promise for the prevention of autoimmunity; however, most clinical trials have failed, suggesting that the principles guiding the choice of treatment remain ill defined. Here, we examine the antidiabetogenic properties of altered peptide ligands of CD8+ T cells recognizing an epitope of islet-specific glucose-6-phosphatase catalytic subunit–related protein (IGRP206–214), a prevalent population of autoreactive T cells in autoimmune diabetes.

view more

Progression of autoimmune diabetes driven by avidity maturation of a T-cell population Nature


For unknown reasons, autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes develop after prolonged periods of inflammation of mononuclear cells in target tissues1. Here we show that progression of pancreatic islet inflammation to overt diabetes in nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice is driven by the 'avidity maturation' of a prevailing, pancreatic beta-cell-specific T-lymphocyte population carrying the CD8 antigen. This T-lymphocyte population recognizes two related peptides (NRP and NRP-A7)2 in the context of H-2K d class I molecules of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC).

view more