Our Research

Engineering the Next Generation of Immune Cell Therapeutics

Cells of the immune system play a unique role in the body, detecting and responding to pathologic insults and deviations. As such, these cells have exceptional properties. They are semiautonomous, often moving freely about the body to survey and infiltrate diverse tissues. Immune cells act as general sensor-response agents, detecting local problems and responding in diverse ways—sometimes executing powerful targeted actions like cell killing and phagocytosis, and at other times taking more subtle but broad actions, like secreting cytokines and chemokines that communicate with and mobilize other cells. Equally important, immune cells are relatively easy to remove, modify, and transfer back into a patient.
Given these unique properties, immune cells provide a remarkable platform for interfacing with and treating disease. There are many complex diseases, such as cancer and autoimmunity that our natural immune systems either cannot handle or pathologically contribute to. Thus, there is a strong rationale to engineer new disease sensing and response behaviors in immune cells, especially given recent powerful advances in synthetic biology and genome editing, which give us unprecedented ability to modify and engineer cellular functions. Synthetic immunology is an emerging strategy that applies the tools and approaches of systems and synthetic biology to reprogram and enhance the function of immune cells, thus also rewiring the overall capabilities of our immune system.

Enhanced Recognition and Treatment of Solid Tumors

By defining highly specific combinatorial antigen signatures, we can safely target a range of solid tumors with synNotch CAR circuit T cells.

High Throughput Characterization of Novel Costimulatory Domains for Chimeric Antigen Receptors

We have developed a unique approach for characterizing and phenotyping novel CAR signaling domains using synthetic DNA libraries. This strategy identifies clinically relevant domains optimized for use in next generation T cell immunotherapies.

A new platform for fully customizable transcriptional receptors

We engineered a suite of compact Synthetic Intramembrane Proteolysis Receptors (SNIPRs) with tunable sensing and transcriptional response abilities in T cells. Our design framework can be applied to a range of therapeutic cells suitable for clinical translation.

Support Roybal Lab

Our research is made possible by a combination of grants and philanthropic gifts. If you are excited about the work we are doing and are interested in contributing, please get in touch.


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.