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.

Come join me and an incredible team @NatureMedicine to help to shape the future of medicine - ... https://www.nature.com/naturecareers/job/associate-or-senior-editor-nature-medicine-springer-nature-746226

Karin Pelka (@karin_pelka) will leverage the innate immune system to find new ways to tackle cancer ... and other diseases


With PhD and MD/PhD admissions season kicking into gear, I have deeply mixed feelings about ... recruiting the next generation of trainees into the biosciences. Many do not realize that the biotech industry is in grave danger with vast swathes of research jobs in jeopardy.

Recent Lab News

July 2021

Joe Muldoon (co-advised by Justin Eyquem and Kole Roybal) received a Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Irvington Postdoctoral Fellowship this month.  Go Joe!


Also, this summer we welcome Maria Chirinos as an undergraduate researcher in the Roybal Lab.  Maria is a biology student at CCSF with plans to transfer to U.C. Berkeley and complete a B.S. in cell and molecular biology.  She is working on shRNA validation for targets associated with T cell activation.

June 2021

Congratulations to Camillia Azimi for her Graduate Women in Science Fellowship!  The GWIS National Fellowship Program promotes knowledge in the natural and social sciences and encourages women’s academic and professional careers in the sciences.  During the 2020-2021 cycle, the highly selective GWIS fellowship distributes research awards to just seven outstanding women scientists. Exceptional work Camillia, you continue to impress!


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.

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!