[Name]: Jan Zimak
[Department]: Pharmaceutical Sciences
[Mentor]: Weian Zhao
Project Title: Monitor and predict CRC recurrence using novel liquid biopsy technologies
I am a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Associate Professor Weian Zhao in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, where I lead a multi-disciplinary team developing novel translational therapeutics and diagnostics. My background in chemical engineering and bioengineering enables me to a take a bottom-up approach to solving problems in translating these tools to the clinic. I am primarily interested in the translation of synthetic biology concepts to mammalian cells, to this end I have specialized in manipulating and detecting nucleic acids in many contexts both and the bench and in the tissue culture hood.
The recent advancements in reading and writing nucleic acids have enabled a new class of therapeutics and diagnostics. Weian Zhao’s lab focuses on using these technologies to develop engineered cells for cancer immunotherapies and droplet microfluidics for rapid diagnostic screening of cancer biomarkers, also known as a “liquid biopsy”. Droplet microfluidics dramatically increase the sensitivity of detecting rare events such as circulating tumor DNA in the blood. Being able to detect minimal residual disease and micrometastases can enable early-state clinical interventions when they are most effective. Thus far we have shown that we can improve the detection sensitivity by two orders of magnitude are now working on multiplexing our detection modality.