Speakers

David Baltimore

David Baltimore is the President Emeritus and Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology at Caltech. His research involves the development and functioning of the mammalian immune system, as well as engineering immunity. Dr. Baltimore has profoundly influenced international science, including key contributions to immunology, virology, cancer research, biotechnology, and recombinant DNA research, through his accomplishments as a researcher, administrator, educator, and public advocate for science and engineering. He served as president of Rockefeller University from 1990 to 1991, and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007. In 1975, at the age of 37, he shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Howard Temin and Renato Dulbecco for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumor viruses and the genetic material of the cell. He was awarded the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1999. 

Elaine Fuchs

Elaine Fuchs heads the Robin Chemers Neustein Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development at Rockefeller University. Her group focuses on the mechanisms that impart skin stem cells with the ability to self-renew, develop and maintain tissues, and how these cells respond to external cues, and depart from their niche to accomplish these tasks. Dr. Fuchs’s studies have revealed how cancer cells hijack the basic mechanisms that enable stem cells to replenish dying cells and to repair wounds, with the hope that this knowledge could be used to devise new cancer therapeutics that target cancer stem cells without affecting normal stem cells. Dr. Fuchs has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science (2009). She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. She was named one of the Nation’s Outstanding Scientists by the White House in 1985 and holds honorary doctorates from the University of Illinois and the Mount Sinai and New York University Schools of Medicine. Dr. Fuchs has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator since 1988. 

Ed Boyden

Ed Boyden is Associate Professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, at the MIT Media Lab and the MIT McGovern Institute. He leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which develops tools for analyzing and engineering the circuits of the brain. These technologies, created often in interdisciplinary collaborations, are distributed as freely as possible to the scientific community for application to the systematic analysis of brain computations, aiming to reveal the fundamental mechanisms of brain function, and yielding new, ground-truth therapeutic strategies for neurological and psychiatric disorders. Dr. Boyden has received the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award (2013), the Grete Lundbeck European "Brain" Prize (the largest brain research prize in the world )(2013), the Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize (2011), the A F Harvey Prize (2011), and the Society for Neuroscience Research Award for Innovation in Neuroscience (RAIN) Prize (2007). He has also received the NIH Director's Pioneer Award (2013), the NIH Director's Transformative Research Award (twice, 2012 and 2013), and the NIH Director's New Innovator Award (2007), as well as the New York Stem Cell Foundation-Robertson Investigator Award (2011) and the the Paul Allen Distinguished Investigator Award in Neuroscience (2010). He was also named to the World Economic Forum Young Scientist list (2013), the Wired Smart List "50 People Who Will Change the World" (2012), the Technology Review World’s "Top 35 Innovators under Age 35" list (2006), and his work was included in Nature Methods "Method of the Year" in 2010. 

Celeste Nelson

Celeste Nelson is an Associate Professor in the departments of Chemical & Biological Engineering and Molecular Biology at Princeton University. Dr. Nelson leads the Tiessue Morphdynamics Laboratory, which seeks to answer the following fundamental questions: How are the final architectures of tissues and organs determined? Specifically, how do individual cells -- the building blocks of these materials -- integrate complex biological signals (both biochemical and mechanical) dynamically and spatially within tissues to direct the development of organs? The lab's current focus is on understanding the branching morphogenesis process that builds the mammary gland and vertebrate lung. The answers to these questions have broad ramifications, from understanding the fundamental mechanisms of development, to delineating the developmental control processes that are circumvented by cancer and other diseases, to elucidating new paradigms required for successful therapeutic approaches in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. Dr. Nelson's contributions to the fields of tissue mechanics and morphogenesis have been recognized by a number of awards, including a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface, a Packard Fellowship, a Sloan Fellowship, the MIT TR35, the Allan P. Colburn Award from the AIChE, and a Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.

Charles GerbachCharles Gersbach is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and of Orthopaedic Surgery at Duke University. The Gersbach Lab is focused on engineering new methods for directing cell behavior to regenerate diseased or damaged tissues and treat genetic diseases. We are particularly interested in developing and applying technologies that manipulate cellular processes at the genetic level. Representative ongoing research projects include: genetic reprogramming for regenerative medicine; synthetic gene regulatory systems and gene circuits; engineering synthetic proteins to edit genome sequences and manipulate gene expression, and; gene and protein delivery. Dr. Gersbach's many awards include the Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research (2013), NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award (2012), NIH Director's New Innovator Award (2011), the Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award (2009), and a National Cancer Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship (2007-2009).

Leonidas BlerisLeonidas G. Bleris is an Assistant Professor with the Bioengineering Department of the University of Texas at Dallas. At UT, the Bleris Lab explores a range of research problems at the intersection of systems and synthetic biology. It is particularly interested in architectures for general-purpose computing, cell reprogramming, and genome editing technologies. Bleris earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University in 2006. He received a Diploma in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2000 from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. Bleris was awarded the Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship from the National Academy of Science (NAS), and served with the Board of Mathematical Sciences and their Applications. Before joining UTD, Bleris was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Systems Biology at Harvard University, and since 2008 he has been an Independent Expert with the European Commission under the "Science, Economy and Society" directorate. In 2014 he received the Junior Faculty Research Award from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, and the NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award.

Feng ZhangFeng Zhang is a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. He is also the W. M. Keck Career Development Professor in Biomedical Engineering, and an assistant professor in the MIT department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. As a student, he played a major role in the development of optogenetics, a technology by which the brain’s electrical activity can be controlled with light-sensitive proteins. Dr. Zhang is now working to extend this molecular engineering approach to other aspects of brain function such as gene expression, and to develop new approaches to understanding and eventually treating brain diseases. More specifically, his group is developing and applying molecular and optical technologies to understand the complex interaction of genetic, epigenetic, and circuit-level mechanisms underlying pathogenesis. Dr. Zhang is a Searle Scholar, and has received both a Director’s Transformative Research Award and a Directors’ Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health. In 2012 he shared the UNC/Perl Prize for his role in the development of optogenetics. 

Joshua LeonardJoshua N. Leonard is an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Chemistry of Life Processes Institute at Northwestern University. Leonard also co-directs a cluster in Biotechnology, Systems, and Synthetic Biology and is a founding mentor of NU’s iGEM team. Leonard received a BS and PhD in chemical engineering from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, respectively, and trained in immunology as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute (NIH). Dr. Leonard's lab seeks to advance design-driven medicine by integrating synthetic biology with systems biology to address pressing challenges in medicine and biotechnology. Research themes currently include: experimental and computational systems biology of immune function; mammalian synthetic biology and engineered cell-based therapies; and microbial synthetic biology and biotechnology. 

Timothy LuTimothy Lu, M.D., Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor leading the Synthetic Biology Group in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Department of Biological Engineering at MIT. He is a core member of the Synthetic Biology Center at MIT, Associate Member at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and co-founder of Sample6 Technologies. Dr. Lu has pioneered new approaches to combat infectious diseases with synthetic biology, encode memory in the DNA of living cells, and perform both digital and analog computation in biological systems. His group’s research focuses on engineering fundamental technologies to enable the scalable design of biological systems and on applying synthetic biology to solve medical and industrial problems. Tim is a recipient of the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Professorship, NIH New Innovator Award, Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for Invention, Army Young Investigator Award, Ellison New Scholar in Aging Award, and Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

Karmella HaynesKarmella Haynes is an Assistant Professor in the Ira A. Fulton School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering at Arizona State University. Dr. Haynes research focuses on epigenetics. Her group uses protein engineering to create new epigenetic machinery that regulates DNA at will. Her lab assembles interchangeable protein modules to build synthetic transcription factors that regulate gene activity in human cells. Unlike typical synthetic transcription factors that recognize specific DNA sequences, our Polycomb-based transcription factors (“Pc-TFs”) are engineered to read chromatin modifications. Thus, a single engineered TF can potentially activate different cohorts of genes in cells that have distinct chromatin modification profiles. The long-term aim is to develop a synthetic epigenetics that will allow us to rationally design new biological systems with predictable, reliable behavior and replace “magic bullet medicine” with “smart medicine.” Dr. Haynes earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics at Washington University, St. Louis. Her postdoctoral training focused on designing bacterial DNA for mathematical applications (Davidson College) and engineering synthetic proteins to control human cell fates (Harvard Medical School). She recently received a Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to Promote Diversity (K01) from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

George ChurchGeorge Church is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Director of PersonalGenomes.org, which provides the world's only open-access information on human Genomic, Environmental & Trait data (GET). His 1984 Harvard PhD included the first methods for direct genome sequencing, molecular multiplexing & barcoding. These led to the first genome sequence (pathogen, Helicobacter pylori) in 1994. His innovations have contributed to nearly all "next generation" genome sequencing methods and companies (CGI, Life, Illumina, nanopore). This plus chip-based DNA synthesis and stem cell engineering resulted in founding additional application-based companies spanning fields of medical diagnostics ( Knome, Alacris, AbVitro, Pathogenica ) & synthetic biology / therapeutics ( Joule, Gen9, Editas, Egenesis, enEvolv, WarpDrive ). He has also pioneered new privacy, biosafety , environmental & biosecurity policies. He is director of NIH Center for Excellence in Genomic Science. His honors include election to National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, and the Franklin Bower Laureate for Achievement in Science. He has coauthored 330 papers, 60 patents, and one book (Regenesis).

Kobi BenensonYaakvo (Kobi) Benenson is Professor of Synthetic Biology at ETH Zurich. His PhD work focused on molecular-scale computing systems. He co-developed a prototype biomolecular computing device made of DNA and enzymes, and later upgraded the device to perform diagnostics using molecular disease markers. This work was recognized by the Feinberg Graduate School’s Kennedy Award and the Wolf Foundation. Dr. Benenson was also selected by the MIT Technology review magazine as one the world’s top 100 young innovators for the year 2004. After completing his PhD in 2005, Kobi Benenson moved to Harvard University to take an independent position as a Bauer Fellow at the FAS Center for Systems Biology. In collaboration with Weiss lab (MIT), Benenson lab pioneered an RNA interference-based approach to molecular computing in mammalian cells. Nowadays this method is successfully being used to construct increasingly complex synthetic circuits for the benefit of basic science as well as biotechnology and biomedicine. In collaboration with Weiss lab (MIT), Benenson lab pioneered an RNA interference-based approach to molecular computing in mammalian cells. Nowadays this method is successfully being used to construct increasingly complex synthetic circuits for the benefit of basic science as well as biotechnology and biomedicine.

Yvonne ChenYvonne Chen’s research experience includes engineering RNA-based regulatory systems for mammalian systems, demonstrating the ability to achieve rapid, reversible, small-molecule–responsive control over T-cell proliferation in tissue culture and in animal models. As a postdoctoral scholar at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Harvard Medical School, Yvonne continued her research on engineering next-generation chimeric antigen receptors capable of logical computation of multiple antigen signals to enhance adoptive T-cell therapy for cancer. Dr. Chen's laboratory is now interested in applying synthetic biology expertise to the engineering of novel biological circuits with direct applications in health and medicine. Our focus is on mammalian systems, particularly in cell-based therapy for cancer. Current projects include rewiring cytokine-signaling pathways in T cells that can recognize the tumor microenvironment and, in response to tumor detection, simultaneously execute tumor-killing functions and recruit supporting immune responders to the tumor site. These novel systems aim to enhance the safety and efficacy of cell-based therapy to tackle currently incurable diseases. Yvonne was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and a recipient of the 2012 NIH Director’s Early Independence Award.

Geraldine HamiltonGeraldine Hamilton is a Senior Staff Scientist of the Wyss Institute's Advanced Technology Team. Dr. Hamilton's career spans from academic research to biotech start-ups and large Pharma, with over 10 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Her research focus has been on the development and application of human relevant in vitro models for drug discovery applications. She was one of the founding scientists, VP of Scientific Operations and Director of Cell Products, in a start-up biotech company (CellzDirect), that successfully translated and commercialized technology from academic research to supply the pharmaceutical industry with hepatic cell products and services for safety assessment and drug-metabolism studies. Hamilton received her Ph.D. in cell biology/toxicology from the University of Hertfordshire (England) in conjunction with GlaxoSmithkline, followed by a post-doctoral research fellowship at the University of North Carolina. Her current research interests and prior experience include: organs on-a-chip, toxicology and drug metabolism, liver cell biology, mechanisms regulating gene expression and differentiation, regulation of nuclear receptors and transcriptional activation in hepatocytes by xenobiotics, human cell isolation and cryopreservation techniques.

Christina SmolkeChristina Smolke is an Associate Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford University. Professor Smolke's research program focuses on developing modular genetic platforms for programming information processing and control functions in living systems, resulting in transformative technologies for engineering, manipulating, and probing biological systems. She has pioneered the design and application of a broad class of RNA molecules, called RNA devices, that process and transmit user-specified input signals to targeted protein outputs, thereby linking molecular computation to gene expression. This technology has been extended to efficiently construct multi-input devices exhibiting various higher-order information processing functions, demonstrating combinatorial assembly of many information processing, transduction, and control devices from a smaller number of components. Her laboratory is applying these technologies to addressing key challenges in cellular therapeutics, targeted molecular therapies, and green biosynthesis strategies.

Wendell LimWendell Lim is a Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at University of California, San Francisco. He is the Director of the UCSF/UCB NIH Nanomedicine development center and Deputy Director of Synberc. He earned his A.B. in Chemistry from Harvard University and his Ph.D in biochemistry and biophysics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the guidance of Bob Sauer. He then did his postdoctoral work with Frederic Richards at Yale University. During his postdoctoral work, he began to think about signal transduction and methods to evolve the module components of the proteins. His lab now focuses on constructing cell signaling systems from modular components to both study and engineer these systems. He also serves as a mentor in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. He has been an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) since 2008.

Michel SadelainMichel Sadelain, MD, PhD is a clinical researcher with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's Immunology Program and Director of the Center for Cell Engineering. His lab studies the mechanisms governing transgene expression, stem cell engineering, and genetic strategies to enhance immunity against cancer. Based on the advent of technologies such as recombinant oncoretroviruses and lentiviruses, the Sadelain Lab is investigating how to control transgene expression in vivo in hematopoietic stem cells and how to augment immune responses against tumor cells. Current studies on the first topic focus on the role of locus control regions and insulators in regulating the transcription of randomly integrated beta globin transgenes. With respect to tumor immunity, Dr. Sadelain is exploring different strategies to target T cells to tumor cells, either by facilitating dendritic cell-T cell interactions or by enhancing the co-stimulation of T cells that engage tumor cells.