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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Recent Lab News

April 2023

This April we welcome two new rotation students, Minna Apostolova and Kamyar Yazdani.  Minna is a first-year graduate student in the BMS program. She comes to us from Vanderbilt University where she worked with Dr. Mary Philip to better understand cellular mechanisms of tumor-specific CD8 T cell dysfunction. Minna is currently working with Casey and Julie to test new methods to enhance CAR T cell efficacy against solid tumors. Outside of the lab, she enjoys going on outdoor walks/hikes, making music with friends, skiing, watching movies, and trying new restaurants around the city. 

Kamyar is a graduate student from UCSF’s Chemistry and chemical biology program. His previous work has been in developing chemical probes to target nucleic acids. While in the Roybal Lab he is working with Dan Goodman on pooled screening of CAR-T cells.  In general he is interested in developing novel therapeutic modalities for cancer … outside of lab he enjoys traveling, hiking, and weightlifting.

March 2023

Congratulations to Jay Daniels for completing his post-doc in the Roybal Lab!   During his time at UCSF he worked closely with Julie Garcia and others to advance the CARD11 fusion project, while also developing shRNA libraries with Nate Perry.  Prior to joining us as a post-doc, Jay collaborated with our lab while earning his PhD with Jaehyuk Choi, of Northwestern.  As a result, Jay’s transition to UCSF was a seamless extension of his previous work.   We wish him the best in his new endeavor, which we expect to hear more about soon!


February 2023

We are so pleased to announce that the Roybal Lab’s very own Julie Garcia has won two enormously important awards from the Gladstone institute.  First, she became a member of a small cohort of graduate students to receive the 2022 Distinguished Achievement in Science Award in the area of genomic immunology.  From there she went on to earn the Dorman Outstanding Graduate Student Award, shared by only one other student.  Congratulations Julie this is an absolutely massive accomplishment!

January 2023

This month we welcome our new rotation student Isaac Orr.  Isaac is a first year in the Biophysics program, and is interested in immunotherapy, bioengineering, and protein engineering.  He’s working closely with Jay Daniels to improve signaling capacities of CAR T cells.