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

Stay Updated

Keep up-to-date with the latest research from the Roybal lab.

@dnatieclub is excited to host Daniel Goodman @dbgoodman on Breakthroughs in Cell Therapies, CRISPR,... and Synbio

Tune in for a conversation hosted by @EganPeltan and @elkingtonxy this Wed. at 8 pm PT on Clubhouse:


@MarsonLab @KoleRoybal @UCSF @parkerici

So, some news: I’m unreasonably excited to be joining the all-star team at @Arsenalbio as CSO ... (1/n) https://twitter.com/ArsenalBio/status/1417110231457402885

Congratulations to the extremely talented postdoc @dbgoodman and grad student @CamilliaAzimi in the... @roybal_lab on their new tour de force preprint on multiplexed CAR engineering for NextGen T cell therapies in collaboration with @MarsonLab + @kickassscience1. Tweetorial below.

Recent Lab News

May 2021

This month we published two major papers in Science Translational Medicine demonstrating the many benefits of synNotch CAR circuits for the treatment of solid tumors. The first investigates novel synNotch CAR circuits that enhance tumor recognition through combinatorial antigen signatures in mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.  The second, a collaboration with the Lim lab, focuses on the challenges of heterogeneity and persistence when treating glioblastoma. Congratulations to Lab members Axel Hyrenius-Wittsen, Julie Garcia, and the rest of the research team for their outstanding work! 

April 2021

Throughout the pandemic, three Roybal Lab PhD candidates, Casey Burnett, Camillia Azimi and Julie Garcia, joined a team of scientists at the CZ Biohub to advance rapid-testing capacity for COVID-19 in the Bay Area. This facility was up and running by March 2020, and by the following October had delivered over 150,000 clinical results and a publication in PLOS Pathogens. Recently, Casey, Camillia and Julie were awarded the Dean’s Commendation for Exceptional Volunteerism and University Service, acknowledging their volunteerism, extra effort, and contributions towards UCSF’s response to COVID-19.

March 2021

This March we welcomed Pavithran Ravindran to the Roybal Lab. Pav joins us from the Toettcher Lab at Princeton University where he engineered synthetic gene circuits to study dynamic cell signaling. He joined the Roybal lab this spring as a staff scientist to work on environmental sensing and plans to begin a MD/PhD program this Fall.

February 2021

This month PhD Candidates Julie Garcia and Casey Burnett both received F31 (Kirschstein-NRSA program) Grants to further their research in the Roybal Lab.  Go Julie and Casey!