Casim A. Sarkar, PhD
Systems and synthetic biology approaches for understanding and engineering cellular decision making.
Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Faculty, Masters Program in Stem Cell Biology
Postdoctoral Fellow, Biochemistry, University of Zurich, 2002-2005
PhD, Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2002
BS, Chemical Engineering, University of Texas, Austin, 1997
Protein interaction networks are at the heart of cellular decision making, both in health and disease. Our laboratory uses approaches from biomolecular engineering, synthetic biology, and systems biology to elucidate how protein networks drive a number of developmental and disease-relevant processes, including stem cell differentiation, dormancy induction in cancer, and progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
At a fundamental level, we are particularly interested in elucidating how these protein networks can engender different decisions among individual cells in a population and also how they enable cells to resolve conflicting cues in their environment. Our understanding of how a protein network interfaces with environmental cues also has translational applications in the design of more effective protein and cellular therapeutics.
Using a powerful method known as directed evolution, we can rapidly engineer novel proteins in the laboratory to block or activate key network nodes to modulate the corresponding cell response, such as inhibiting proliferation in cancer. We also construct entirely new protein networks in therapeutic cells with the goal of exploiting such living therapies to enable dynamic drug delivery responses, as is needed, for example, in insulin dosing for diabetics.