The science of Cell Design Labs begins with the core idea of re-engineering the molecular machinery of a human cell so that it will perform a new therapeutic function. While such concepts have long been imagined, only in the last five years has our knowledge and technology converged to allow cells to be engineered with the precision and control required for therapeutic applications. Research from Dr. Wendell Lim’s lab at the University of California, San Francisco, has led to the development and licensing of a collection of foundational molecular control modules. The variety of these molecular modules has led to the creation of a comprehensive toolbox that the company uses to genetically engineer human cells with therapeutic programs that are customized to precisely sense and disable the targeted disease.

Cell Design Labs is first deploying its disruptive technology in re-engineering human immune cells to fight cancer. The most important of these immune cells are T cells, which have been shown to be powerful agents to treat cancers of the blood when engineered with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) or T cell receptors (TCRs).  Cell Design Labs’ proprietary ON-OFF switches and synthetic Notch receptors now provide T cells with a far greater capability to recognize cancer and other disease tissues in a precise and controlled manner. This new toolkit for cellular engineering opens up the possibility to expand the use of cell therapies to solid tumors, providing treatments with unprecedented power, precision, safety and durability. 

Current initiatives underway at Cell Design Labs include:

Precise sensing of disease tissue based on combinatorial signals – we are directing engineered T cells to migrate to and precisely recognize disease cells and tumor microenvironments, while not reacting to related normal cells.

Overcoming and disabling the immunosuppressive microenvironment of the tumor – we are developing response programs that drive more potent T cell proliferation and activity in solid tumors. 

Enhancing safety mechanisms – we are developing fast-acting control switches that can prevent the often sudden, and life threatening, side effects traditionally associated with immunotherapy. 

These disruptive capabilities in cellular engineering can be applied to many complex diseases where there are now major treatment gaps, including autoimmune and degenerative disorders. At Cell Design Labs we are building a broad technology platform to become the pre-eminent cell engineering company.


Scientific Publications

Precision tumor recognition by T cells with combinatorial antigen-sensing circuits
Kole T. Roybal, Levi J. Rupp, Leonardo Morsut, Whitney J. Walker, Krista A. McNally, Jason S. Park, Wendell A. Lim. Cell. 2016 Feb. 11 pdf

Engineering customized cell sensing and response behaviors using synthetic notch receptors
Leonardo Morsut, Kole T. Roybal, Xin Xiong, Russell M. Gordley, Scott M. Coyle, Matthew Thomson, Wendell A. Lim. Cell. 2016 Feb. 11 pdf

Remote control of therapeutic T cells through a small molecule-gated chimeric receptor
Chia-Yung Wu, Kole T. Roybal, Elias M. Puchner, James Onuffer, Wendell A. Lim. Science. 2015 Sep 24 pdf

Engineering T Cells with Customized Therapeutic Response Programs Using Synthetic Notch Receptors
Kole T. Roybal, Jasper Z. Williams, Leonardo Morsut, Levi J. Rupp, Isabel Kolinko, Joseph H. Choe, Whitney J. Walker, Krista A. McNally, Wendell A Lim. Cell. 2016 Oct 6 pdf

The Principles of Engineering Immune Cells to Treat Cancer
Wendell A. Lim and Carl H. June. Cell. 2017 Feb. 9 pdf