Hacking Immune Cells To Expand Their Therapeutic Potential

Our Research

In the Roybal Lab, we harness the tools of synthetic and chemical biology to enhance the therapeutic potential of engineered immune cells. We take a comprehensive approach to cellular engineering by developing new synthetic receptors, signal transduction cascades, and cellular response programs to enhance the safety and effectiveness of adoptive cell therapies. We also study the logic of natural cellular signaling systems, and the underlying principles of cellular communication and collective cell behavior during an immune response. These interests are complementary as cell engineering is often informed by knowledge obtained from studying natural mechanisms of cell regulation refined by evolution.

Our Partners


Our People

The Roybal Lab is a dedicated group of students, post-docs, physicians, and staff scientists with diverse backgrounds ranging from basic science to cellular engineering and synthetic immunology. Each member brings expertise in their field to our unique and highly collaborative research environment.


Media highlights of Roybal Lab's research.
'Smart' immune cells kill tumours and stop them regrowing in mice
Attacking glioblastoma and other solid tumors with CAR-Ts that target multiple antigens
Tweaking Mother Nature, biologists aim for better cancer-fighting cells
'Cell Bots' Chase Down Cancer, Deliver Drugs Directly to Tumors
Synthetic Notch receptors were featured in Notable Advances 2016
Kole Roybal receives the inaugural Sartorius & Science Magazine Prize in Regenerative Medicine and Cell Therapy 2018
Boosting the immune system to fight cancer
Cell Design Labs, Little Partner Of Kite Pharma, Pushes T-Cell Engineering Frontier

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Super fun, (beware - stream of consciousness) conversation about learnings over 3 boom-bust cycles ...with @Jason on @TWiStartups

A lot of perplexing data showing chronic interferon (IFN) promotes immunotherapy resistance. But ...why is chronic IFN different from acute, which clearly is important for response? New paper by @jingya & Bihui Xu shows one reason: inflammatory memory! (1/n) https://www.nature.com/articles/s43018-022-00490-y

Congrats to my close colleague and friend @j_eyquem! This opens up so many important avenues of ...research - a sign of a great body of work.

Recent Lab News

October 2022

October is a big month for CCSF student and Roybal lab summer intern Maria Chirinos.  Maria will be traveling overseas to present her work on shRNA mediated T cell activation at the SACNAS National Diversity in STEM conference in San Juan Puerto Rico.  This is the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the country, and we are so proud to have here representing the Roybal Lab!  But, there’s more…she will also present at ABRCMS in Long Beach this November. Go Maria!

Septemeber 2022

It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to our dear colleague Dr. Camillia Azimi.  Camillia is a founding member of the Roybal lab, and the first of our PhD students to graduate. Her work was geared towards re-engineering T cell signaling to create novel exhaustion resistant T cell therapies for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases. Alongside Dan Goodman, she developed the CAR Pooling method: an approach that utilizes libraries of immune signaling domains and repetitive stimulations to allow for high throughput screening of CAR T treatments for persistent tumors. Camillia completed her PhD in the fall of 2022, and will begin a post doc position at Mount Sinai in 2023 working on innate immune cell engineering in the labs of Miriam Merad and Brian Brown.


August 2022

August is here and so are new rotation students!  We are excited to welcome Sara Misiukiewicz and Russell Ro. Sara spent the past 2 years working at UCSF in Luke Gilbert’s lab. During that period, she used functional genomics to investigate genetic perturbations that influence cancer sensitivity/resistance to clinical DNA Damage Response inhibitors. In the Roybal lab she’ll be working with Casey and Julie on the CARD11 fusion project. Russell holds a B.S. in Bioengineering from UCSD, and is now part of the UCSF Berkeley Bioengineering PhD program.  He will be working with Dan Goodman on CAR libraries.

July 2022

This summer we are lucky to receive several new members. After years of collaboration from Jaehyuk Choy’s lab at Northwestern, Jay Daniels has joined the Roybal lab as a post doc.  He will be continuing his work on the CARD11 fusion project with Julie Garcia and many other lab members.  Clarity Chua, who holds a B.A.S. in Biochemistry and English from UCLA, joins us from Revolution Medicines.  She will be working closely with Dan Goodman to develop CAR libraries.