APPS Faculty

Christopher Chen, MD/PhD, Prof. of BME, Director of BDC, and Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering (BME, MCBB): Dr. Chen’s research is focused on understanding how coordinated assembly of cells can lead to functional tissue structures.  The Chen lab is using synthetic biology approaches to study and control transcription and signaling pathways as a means to gain insights into these mechanisms.

Ji-Xin Cheng, PhD, Prof. of BME, ECE (BME, MCBB):The Cheng lab develops and applies molecular spectroscopic imaging techniques to enable discovery, precise diagnostics and treatment of human disease. Dr. Cheng’s single cell analysis using spectroscopic signals allows high-speed mapping of chemical content in a living cell. These technologies addressa critical challenge in synthetic biology by providing strategies for high-throughput or real timemeasurement of the outcome of engineered genetic circuits.

James Galagan, PhD, Assoc. Prof. of BME (BME, BI, MCBB):The Galagan lab is an interdisciplinary lab that researches the molecular systems architecture of microbial organisms and its applications to basic science and biomedical engineering. Dr. Gagalan is leveraging his expertise in transcription networks to mine and develop synthetic biological sensors for engineering cell-free diagnostics devices.

Mark Grinstaff, PhD, Prof. of BME, Chemistry (BME):The Grinstaff group pursues highly interdisciplinary research in biomaterials, elucidating underlying fundamental chemistry and engineering principles and using this insight to improve gene delivery and develop better therapeutics and materials. Dr. Grinstaff is applying his experience in biomaterials, biological engineering and chemistry to create new inducible genetic circuits, biosensors, and delivery tools for synthetic biological constructs. Dr. Grinstaff is director of the NIH T32 Translational Research in Biomaterials (TRB) training program, which has goals that are distinctly different from those of SB2 and will recruit a different cohort of students. 

Xue Han, PhD, Assoc. Prof. of BME (BME, MCBB): Dr. Han’s research interest centers on understanding the neural circuit mechanisms of brain disorders. The ultimate goal of Dr. Han’s research is to develop better tools, such as network-basedbiomarkers for disease diagnosis, and to discover design principles for new generations of neuromodulation therapies. The Han lab adapts synthetic biology approaches to engineer better neurotechnologies. 

Darrell Kotton, PhD, Prof. of Medicine (BME, BI):  Dr. Darrell Kotton’s laboratory specializes in stem cell biology with a focus on applying stem cells to model and understand lung development and disease. Dr. Kotton’s laboratory research has focused primarily on applying mouse and human pluripotent stem cells to investigate the developmental biology of endoderm and the biology of lung injury and repair. His group has developed reprogramming methods, endodermal differentiation protocols for pluripotent stem cellsand synthetic biology approaches to modulate stem cells or various resident lung cells for durable in vitro and in vivogene expression.

Tyrone Porter, PhD, Assoc. Prof. of Mechanical Engineering (BME): Dr. Porter aims to propel the application of ultrasound technology in new and exciting directions. Research in his lab focuses on integrating ultrasound technologies with vesicles that have been engineered in various ways for numerous diagnostic and therapeutic applications. For example, his lab is working on combining ultrasound technologies with novel chemical formulations for assessing tissue perfusion, targeted contrast enhancement of diseases in ultrasound images, and improving the uptake and activity of drugs while reducing adverse side effects. The applications of Dr. Porter’s are wide-ranging – for instance, his ultrasound technology can be used to test the growth of cancer and drug delivery through microscopic carriers.

Trevor Siggers, PhD, Assoc. Prof. of Biology (BI, MCBB): The Siggers lab use high-throughput in vitroand genome-wide in vivoapproaches to understandgene regulatory specificity in the immune system. Specifically, they are using protein-binding microarrays to analyze the DNA-binding sequence specificity of transcription factorsand integrating this in vitrobinding data with genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation datasets of transcription factor binding and histone marks to generate models of gene-regulatory specificity. Dr. Siggers is using transcription factor binding information and synthetic biology approaches to design novel ligand-responsivetranscription factors as biosensors.

Tom Tullius, PhD, Prof. of Chemistry, Director of BI (BI, MCBB): Research in the Tullius lab focuses on development of new chemical probe methods for the structural study of nucleic acids, including protein-DNA complexes. Such experiments contribute to deeper understanding of the use of nucleic acids in synthetic biology applications. In recent years the Tullius lab has turned to studies at the whole genome level. Current research seeks to develop a new method using hydroxyl radical cleavage combined with high-throughput sequencing to map RNA tertiary structure for a whole transcriptome. Dr. Tullius is director of the NIH T32 Bioinformatics training program and has mentored 32 graduate students.

Arturo Vegas, PhD, Asst. Prof. of Chemistry (MCBB):Dr. Vegas’s lab developsmaterials for the delivery of nucleic acid and cell-based therapies. These same materials are highly valuable for the in vivoapplication of other cell-based therapeutic approaches such as the products of synthetic biology.

Joyce Wong, PhD, Prof. of BME (BME, MCBB):Dr. Wong’s mainresearch interest is the development of biomaterial systems to recapitulate normal and pathophysiological conditions toprobe how cells respond to their local environment.  Dr. Wong is applying her expertise in biomaterials and biomechanics to characterize and manipulate genetically engineered cells.