No. 82
Seasons Greetings from the Koch Institute!

As 2018 comes to a close, we at the Koch Institute are especially grateful for our community of colleagues, collaborators and friends who make our work possible.

We send you sincere thanks and wish you all a restful holiday break and wonderful new year. 

—Tyler Jacks, Director, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research

In Fighting Shape

Researchers in the laboratories of Scott Manalis and Alex Shalek have teamed up to test whether a cancer cell is fit enough to survive cancer treatment—and identify the weaknesses that may help clinicians knock drug-resistant cells out. The study, appearing in Genome Biology, combines the Shalek Lab's expertise in single-cell mRNA sequencing and a Manalis Lab device that measures the mass and growth rate of individual cells to investigate treatment of glioblastoma in collaboration with Keith Ligon's lab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. By overlapping cell measurements from the device and gene expression measurements associated with cellular responses to an experimental drug known as an MDM2 inhibitor, the team identified populations of resistant glioblastoma cells and gained new insights into how to target these cells more efficiently. Read more.

Immune Engineering Takes Center Stage

On January 28-29, 2019, top biologists, chemists, and materials engineers will converge at MIT's Kresge Auditorium to discuss the latest trends in immunotherapy research. Join them for the 2019 Immune Engineering Symposium, hosted by the Koch Institute. Learn more and register now.

Putting the Y in Wireless

A new ingestible capsule created by a collaborative team of researchers, including KI members Robert Langer and Giovanni Traverso, is designed to monitor conditions within the body, deliver drugs, and communicate wirelessly with the outside world for weeks on end.* The customizable, long-lasting Y-shaped device, described in Advanced Materials Technologies, is manufactured using 3D printing technology and is applicable to many disease areas, including cancer.
Read more.

*For an overview of the growing field of ingestible electronics, see Langer and Traverso's recent article in Nature Reviews Materials.

Park Leaves Hahvahd Yahd to Hit the Rhodes

Congratulations to Jacks Lab researcher Jin Park on winning a 2019 Rhodes Scholarship. Park, a senior majoring in molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University, will be the first DACA-recipient Rhodes Scholar. In the Jacks Lab, Park studies the mechanisms of T-cell exhaustion. Elsewhere, he is a volunteer for the Phillips Brooks House Chinatown Citizenship program, the managing editor of the Harvard Undergraduate Research Journal, and the founder and co-director of Higher Dreams, which provides resources to undocumented students who want to attend college. At Oxford University, Park plans to pursue master's degrees in migration studies and global health science and epidemiology, with a view to building a career in advocacy for immigrant communities. However, as he explains in a CNN interview, there may be legal barriers to his return to the U.S. after he completes his degrees in the U.K.

And a CDK12 in a Repair Tree

Certain genes—most infamously, BRCA1 and BRCA2—give rise to tumors by interfering with cells' ability to repair double-strand breaks in DNA. In work published by Nature, Sharp Lab researchers describe how the lone RNA-regulating gene in the BRCAness family, CDK12, contributes to DNA repair dysfunction without being directly involved in DNA repair pathways. The team’s findings offer new insight into the BRCAness of ovarian and prostate tumors and potential opportunities for clinical intervention. Read more.

Community Highlights

KI faculty member Regina Barzilay's AI for mammograms continues to make waves in the press, with a Boston Globe showcase of new technologies that promise to speed up cancer diagnosis. Barzilay is developing computer models to analyze mammograms for signs of cancer better than the human eye can.

Congratulations to KI member Stefani Spranger, who was named a 2018 research fellow by the Breath of Hope Lung Foundation in support of her work to understand how a tumor's heterogeneity influences immune response.

More congratulations are in order for MIT senior and aspiring physician-scientist Anna Sappington on her 2019 Marshall Scholarship! We expect her undergraduate research experiences in the laboratories of KI members Sangeeta Bhatia and Aviv Regev will serve her well as she pursues master’s degrees in machine learning and medical sciences in oncology in England next year.

Meet Kerrie Greene, an MIT senior who, under the mentorship of Rebecca Saxe and KI member Doug Lauffenburger, among others, is exploring her joint interests in neuroscience and bioengineering. Greene has also spent two summers at the Mayo Clinic developing drugs to inhibit tumor development.

Finally, enjoy this behind-the-scenes video about the Koch Institute Image Awards by Lina Colucci, former co-director of MIT Hacking Medicine and a graduate student in the laboratory of KI member Michael Cima. Lina shares more insights into her 2018 Image Award (and her lifelong passion for ballet, photography, and STEM) in an interview with Society for Science.

Pub Crawl: News from the Research Journals

“P” is for pneumonia: Researchers in the Bhatia Lab have adapted their signature peptide-coated nanoparticles, previously developed for early cancer diagnosis, to detect bacterial pneumonia and monitor treatment with a simple urine test. (Published in EBioMedicine)

Cartilage blanche: A new material developed by the Hammond Lab stands poised to improve treatment for osteoarthritis by delivering drugs directly into cartilage. (Published in Science Translational Medicine)

Going through a phase: Bringing a thermodynamic perspective to the activation domain, Young Lab researchers show how a process known as phase separation contributes to cell organization and gene expression. (Published in Cell)

In Good Company

The Boston Globe profiled the work of precision medicine pioneer Foundation Medicine (co-founded by KI member Eric Lander), showcasing the company's matchmaking technology that pairs genomic profiles of patients' tumors with possible courses of treatment.

Moderna Therapeutics (co-founded by KI member Robert Langer) raised $604.3 million in its IPO—the largest biotech offering to date. Moderna's pipeline includes 21 mRNA-based drugs, 10 of which are in clinical trials.

Dragonfly Therapeutics (co-founded by KI director Tyler Jacks) has expanded its partnership with Celgene to develop NK-cell-based technologies for cancer immunotherapy.

Syros Pharmaceuticals (co-founded by KI member Rick Young) debuted data from two preliminary trials screening for and targeting DNA segments called super-enhancers. According to Nature, these trials are the first attempts to target super-enhancers to treat human disease.

Earlier this month, Fate Therapeutics (founded by KI member Rudolf Jaenisch) took a step closer to beginning clinical investigations with its programmed cell immunotherapy, FT500, announcing the FDA's approval of its investigational new drug application.

Clinical trials are on the horizon for Lyndra Therapeutics (co-founded by KI members Robert Langer and Giovanni Traverso). Their star-shaped drug delivery capsule—which is moving toward patent approval—recently demonstrated its ability to administer a week's worth of daily medication using sustained release.

The newsletter of the David H. Koch Institute at MIT: providing up-to-date information on next generation cancer solutions coming from MIT and our collaborators across the world.
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