Akinyemi I Ojesina, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor
Ryals 230L

Dr. Ojesina is a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), and an Adjunct Faculty Investigator at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. He also holds appointments as Associate Scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC), the UAB Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), and the UAB Comprehensive Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, Bone & Autoimmunity Center (CAMBAC).

In the Oncopathogenomics Group (Ojesina Laboratory), we are addressing 3 important questions in cancer:
1. How does cancer start and how can we nip it in the bud?
2. Why do cancers recur after treatment and how can this be delayed or prevented?
3. How do microbes (viruses, bacteria, etc) synergize with genomic and transcriptomic alterations in cancer, and how can we use this knowledge to improve cancer prevention, diagnosis and therapy? 

In order to answer these questions we integrate cutting-edge genomic analyses with laboratory experiments to interrogate relevant population-based patient samples and laboratory cell lines. Although we are interested in a wide variety of cancers, our primary focus is on infection-related cancers and women's cancers like breast cancer and cervical cancer.

Our research lies at the nexus of translational genomics, integrative molecular epidemiology, oncology, infectious disease, and global health. We anticipate that our work will have 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.


Dr. Ojesina obtained his medical training at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria (with Distinction in Biochemistry), and his PhD in Biological Sciences in Public Health at Harvard University. He completed a Damon Runyon postdoctoral fellowship in cancer genomics and pathogen discovery at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. During this time, he and others in the lab developed computational and experimental methods for the identification of pathogens in next generation sequencing data [Kostic, Ojesina et al. Nat Biotechnol. 2011 May;29(5):393-6]. He also led the first comprehensive analyses of whole exome, transcriptome and whole genome sequencing data from cervical carcinomas, leading to the discovery of somatic E322K point mutations in the MAPK1, loss-of-function mutations in HLA-B gene, and frameshift mutations in ELF3 (all for the first time in primary human cancers), as well as significantly high expression of genes adjacent to HPV viral integration sites [Ojesina et al. Nature. 2014 Feb 20;506(7488):371-5]. He is also a corresponding author of the marker paper published by the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Cervical Cancer Analysis Working Group [Nature 2017 Mar 16;543(7645):378-384].

Dr. Ojesina has received the following honors and awards:

  • Rebecca Ridley Kry Fellowship of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (2008-2011)
  • Research Fellowship from the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (2012-2013)
  • AACR-GlaxoSmithKline Outstanding Clinical Scholar Awards (2011, 2013, 2014)
  • Career Development Award from the Johns Hopkins/UAB Cervical Cancer SPORE program (2015-2016)
  • Angus Cooper Award for Transplant Investigation (2015-2016)
  • V Foundation Scholar Award funded by the Stuart Scott Medical Research Fund (2015-2017).



Kostic AD, Ojesina AI, Jung J, Pedamallu C, Verhaak RGW, Getz G, Meyerson M. PathSeq: software to identify or discover microbes by deep sequencing of human tissue. Nature Biotechnology 2011; 29(5):393-396. PMID: 21552235.

Kostic AD, Gevers D, Pedamallu CS, Michaud M, Duke F, Earl AM, Ojesina AI, Jung J, Bass AJ, Tabernero J, Baselga J, Ogino S, Birren BW, Huttenhower C, Garrett WS, Meyerson M. Genomic analysis identifies association of Fusobacterium with colorectal carcinoma. Genome Research 2012; 22(2):292-298. PMID: 22009990.

Ojesina AI*, Lichtenstein L*, ........53 authors...... Salvesen HB, Meyerson M. Landscape of genomic alterations in cervical carcinomas. Nature 2014; 506(7488): 371-375. PMID: 24390348.  *Equal contribution.

Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network. Comprehensive molecular characterization of gastric adenocarcinoma. Nature 2014; 513(7517): 202-209.  doi: 10.1038/nature13480. PMID:25079317.

Cancer Genome Atlas Network. Comprehensive genomic characterization of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. Nature. 2015 Jan 29;517(7536):576-82. doi: 10.1038/nature14129. PMID: 25631445.

Arvey A*, Ojesina AI*, Pedamallu CS, Ballon G, Jung J, Duke F, di Falco G, Leoncini L, Tam W,  Chadburn W, Meyerson M, Cesarman E. The tumor virus landscape of AIDS-related lymphomas. Blood. 2015 May 14;125(20):e14-e22. Epub 2015 Mar 31. PMID: 25927832. *Equal contribution.

Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network*. Integrated genomic and molecular characterization of cervical cancer. Nature. 2017 Mar 16;543(7645):378-384. doi: 10.1038/nature21386. PMID: 28112728. *Co-corresponding author.

Halle MK, Ojesina AI, Engerud H, Woie K, Tangen IL, Holst F, Haldorsen IS, Trovik J, Bertelsen BI, Salvesen HB, Krakstad C. Clinicopathologic and molecular biomarkers in cervical carcinoma; a prospective cohort study. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Jun 24. pii:S0002-9378(17)30732-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2017.05.068. PMID: 28599900.