Devesha Kulkarni, PhD

Devesha Kulkarni, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine


Dr. Kulkarni is a mucosal immunologist with research focus on inflammation occurring within the intestine and extra-intestinal sites, such as the adipose tissue, pancreas and lungs. Dr. Kulkarni born and raised in India, where she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry at Pune University. She then went to University of Skovde, Sweden for her Master’s in Science in Molecular Biology, during which time she did a six-month research internship at University of Turku, Finland. During this time, she demonstrated that gut microbes play a key role in maintaining intestinal T-regulatory (Treg) cells, and the number of Treg cells in pancreatic islets, by comparing germ-free versus conventionally raised non-obese diabetic mice. Subsequently, she joined the Helmholtz Institute for Infection Research in Braunschweig, Germany for her PhD. Her graduate work focused on studying the effect of enteric pathogens on the stability of intestinal T-regulatory cells (Tregs). She demonstrated that enteric pathogens such as Yersinia directly modulate T cell receptor signaling via injection of effector molecules through a type III secretion system, resulting in enhanced Th17 differentiation and decreased Treg induction. Dr. Kulkarni joined Washington University School of Medicine for her postdoctoral training, where she demonstrated novel properties of intestinal goblet cells in induction and maintenance of immune tolerance. She joined the faculty in the Division of Gastroenterology as an Instructor in 2018 and was promoted to Assistant Professor in 2022. In addition to her research, she is passionate about mentoring and is committed to improving career opportunities and outcomes for all trainees, including women and those who are underrepresented in medicine and research.

Research Interests

Dr. Kulkarni’s research focuses understanding of microbial dysbiosis on intestinal and extra-intestinal immune responses. One arm of her research program investigates the pathways by which Crohn’s disease-associated gut microbes manipulate the functioning of intestinal goblet cells, and determines the comprehensive landscape of the inflammatory immune response that is generated by gut microbial dysbiosis. Using a translational animal model and using cutting-edge techniques such as single cell RNA sequencing and spectral flow analysis, they are dissecting the critical role of intestinal epithelial cells in balancing immune cell responses, and identifying how this delicate balance is altered in presence of pathogens.

In addition to inducing pathology within the intestine, gut microbiome dysbiosis is increasingly associated with inducing immune-related disorders at extra-intestinal sites, such as metabolic syndrome. Utilizing an extensive cohort of individuals with metabolically-healthy obesity (MHO) and those with metabolically-unhealthy obesity (MUO), another arm of her program leverages a humanized animal model to explore the biology of gut microbial dysbiosis on immune responses at extra-intestinal sites.


  • Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation (CCF) Research Fellowship Award – 2015
  • Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation (CCF) Career Development Award – 2019
  • Lloyd Mayer, MD, Young Investigator Award, CCF – 2019
  • Longer Life Foundation Developmental Research Award – 2020
  • Society of Mucosal Immunology Mentorship Program Award – 2021
  • NIDDK K01 Career Development Award – 2022
  • NIAID- Mucosal Immunology Study Team (MIST) Scholar Award – 2023