Cellular therapies, specifically CAR T cells, have been extremely successful against blood cancers, but they’re still largely ineffective against solid tumors, due to the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment and the heterogeneous identities of tumors themselves. That’s why Kole T. Roybal, Ph.D., a CRI Lloyd J. Old STAR at the University of California, San Francisco, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology, is working to engineer superior immune cells with optimized natural functions as well as added synthetic functions that enable them to overcome cancer immune evasion.
In particular, Dr. Roybal is focused on developing cutting-edge engineered receptor systems—such as CARs, synNotch, and SNIPRs—that allow T cells to recognize tumors with precision and engage in killing activity only at the tumor site so as to reduce side effects. As he advances these powerful synthetic biology platforms, his overarching goal is to engineer and distribute a comprehensive toolkit, including novel receptors and therapeutic signaling circuits, that can be used to create “smart cell" therapeutics to deploy across a broad range of solid cancers.
Projects and Grants
Design and optimization of engineered T cell therapeutics for cancer
University of California, San Francisco | All Cancers | 2022
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