Petit Institute Distinguished Lecture

Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - 11:00 to 13:00

"Learning to Program Cellular Machines: Harnessing Cells to Treat Disease, Build Tissues, and Elucidate Design Principles"

Wendell Lim, Ph.D.
Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology
Biochemistry and Biophysics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute    
Byers Distinguished Professorship
University of California San Francisco

The eras of molecular biology and genomics have given us an unprecedented picture of the molecular components underlying living systems. Nonetheless, our understanding of how these components are assembled to generate precision physiological systems remains far less developed.  To approach this problem, we and others have been using synthetic biology methods to empirically explore how molecular components can be used to construct novel cellular functions. Using these approaches, we have shown that we can reprogram living cellular machines that carryout new novel precision functions, including therapeutic immune cells that precisely recognize and eliminate cancer cells, or cells that self-organize into tissues.  By merging our understanding of cellular machines with our knowledge of our bodies and its diseases, we envision the development of a mature field of cell engineering with a toolbox of optimized molecular parts and circuit architectures, as well as disease and  "GPS" sensors that allow the cell to target specific sites in the body or brain.  Such a platform will allow us to rapidly and flexibly prototype and design cells that can identify sites of disease or degeneration and execute precisely targeted and controlled therapeutic actions. 

Wendell Lim is the Byers Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California San Francisco, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received his A.B. in Chemistry, summa cum laude, from Harvard College, his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completed his postdoctoral training at Yale University. His research focuses on the design principles of molecular circuits that govern cell decision-making and responses. His lab has made contributions in understanding the molecular machinery of cell signaling and how molecular modules have been used in evolution to build novel new behaviors. Most recently he has been a pioneer in the emerging field of synthetic biology, exploring how these design principles can be harnessed to engineer cells with customized therapeutic response programs.  He is an author of the textbook, Cell Signaling (Garland Science 2014) and was the founder of the cell therapy biotech startup, Cell Design Labs, which was acquired by Gilead Biosciences in 2017.

A community lunch will be served immediately following the presentation.