Tayo Ikotun

Oluwatayo (Tayo) F. Ikotun, Ph.D. 

Assistant Professor, Molecular and Medical Pharmacology


Oluwatayo (Tayo) Ikotun is a molecular imaging specialist who seeks to develop novel imaging techniques to enhance our understanding of biology and immune cell activity in various diseases including cancer and the progressive, out-of-control scarring known as fibrosis. Imaging technologies, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans, use probes, which are small or large molecules tagged with radioactive particles called isotopes. When administered to patients, these probes travel throughout the body and enable researchers and physicians to generate three-dimensional images that can be used to detect changes in tissue such as metabolism, blood flow and drug distribution.  

Imaging is used in the clinic to diagnose cancer, monitor its growth and measure a patient’s response to therapy. Ikotun is using SPECT and PET imaging to better understand how the concentration, distribution and function of immune cells change as a tumor develops and spreads in the body. Her goal is to create more detailed images of the processes that occur in the tumor microenvironment — the area immediately surrounding a tumor containing blood vessels and immune cells— to determine why certain immune cells are prevented from or able to kill cancer cells.  For this work she uses multiplex SPECT, a technique that allows her to observe two to three different immune cell types simultaneously. Multiplex SPECT is primarily used to diagnose and monitor cardiovascular conditions. By incorporating this technology into cancer research, Ikotun aims to capture a fuller picture of the various interactions taking place within the tumor microenvironment in order to offer a more nuanced look at a patient’s cellular response to disease and therapeutic intervention.

Another area of focus for Ikotun’s lab is developing new animal models of progressive fibrosis to support the creation of new therapies. Fibrosis can occur in nearly every part of the body and can result in organ failure or death if untreated. Treatment options for fibrosis are extremely limited; in the past 30 years approximately 90% of therapies that have shown promise in animal models of fibrosis have failed in human clinical trials. In order to create fibrosis models that more accurately reflect human disease, Ikotun will be implanting fibroblast activation organoids—scar tissue grown from human stem cells in the lab of Dr. Brigitte Gomperts—into mice. When studied using PET scans and novel probes developed by Ikotun, these models can reveal how fibrosis progresses and can be used to test possible treatments. 

Ikotun earned her doctorate in Bioinorganic Chemistry at Syracuse University and completed postdoctoral training as an American Cancer Society fellow at the Washington University School of Medicine.


Honors & Affiliations


  • UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • UCLA Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging
  • World Imaging Society
  • Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging
  • American Chemical Society


Ikotun’s work is supported by the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center, including support from The Rose Hills Foundation Innovator Grant.


Ikotun Lab Introduction
Dr. Oluwatayo "Tayo" Ikotun is a professor in the Immunity, Microbes, and Molecular Pathogenesis (IMMP) home area in the MBIDP at UCLA.