We are a team of scientists, engineers, and clinicians working together to cure cancer.

The Allen Lab is focused on developing and applying advanced synthetic biology tools to dissect the fundamental design principles of the immune system. We use synthetic receptors, cytokines, and secondary messengers to generate novel alternatively engineered tumor-immune eco-systems, which we then interrogate with high-dimensional tools. From this ground-up systems biology perspective we are attempting to rationally design engineered cells to tackle the most challenging diseases we face in the clinic.

Bringing the next generation of immune cells to our patients

Our research group has a complete bench-to-bedside program to develop the next generation of engineered immune cell therapies. At the bench, we are developing ways to precisely program immune cell function to overcome fundamental barriers to anti-tumor immunity. With our collaborators in the UCSF cell therapy community, these new cell designs are advanced to academic first-in-human clinical trials. From each patient treated, we learn and adapt our cellular designs to optimize for the future. Currently, we are actively involved in initiatives at UCSF to generate home-grown cell therapies for Pancreatic Cancer and Osteosarcoma with a vision of transforming how we treat cancer.

Synthetic Biology Tools Development

Synthetic Biology Tools Development

Dissecting biological systems by asking "what if".

All biological systems arise from networks of components interacting within a finely tuned concert. We seek to understand how these systems are designed by changing the rules of interaction and exploring the consequences. Our frame is the relationship between tumors and the immune system. The natural immune system is poorly equipped to handle the duties of recognizing and eliminating tumors. Using the powerful set of tools generated by the synthetic biology community we can now overwrite native signaling and patterning programs and explore alternative immune system designs. We utilize immune cells engineered with synthetic functions for communication, spatial organization, and effector functions to determine which immune system designs tumors can escape from and which they can't. The knowledge gained here then feeds forward into our ability to generate immunotherapies to attack cancer.

Expanding our toolkit to program biology.

New synthetic biology tools are the engine that drives our ability to build new and more effective cell therapies. In our group, we are developing new signaling scaffolds and gene circuits that allow us to control new aspects of immune cell biology with more precision. Check out or recent work generating gene circuits to control cytokine production here.

Synthetic Biology Tools Development