As the child of two scientists in Palermo, Sicily, Dr. Alessandro Migliara’s favorite childhood toys were his parents’ microscopes and pipettes. Though his interest in science started at a young age, Dr. Migliara was inspired to pursue a career as a biomedical researcher after the cancer diagnosis of a close family friend. This vocation has taken him all over the world – from Palermo to Milan, where he developed epigenome editing technologies, and now to California, where he works as the Cancer Research Institute F. M. Kirby Foundation Fellow at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) in the lab of synthetic biology pioneer Professor Wendell Lim.

At UCSF, Dr. Migliara is leveraging his expertise in genetic engineering to find ways to improve our immune system to defeat cancer. Specifically, special cells in our immune system can be genetically reprogrammed into Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cells, or CAR T cells, that attack cancer cells. While instructing CAR T cells to attack tumors has proven effective as a clinical therapy for some tumors, it has limitations and may not work effectively for all cancer types. One of the limitations of CAR T Cell therapy is that CAR T cells can become exhausted and die in their battle against cancer cells, allowing the cancer to grow unchecked. Current strategies to modify CAR T cells and make them more long-lasting can have toxic side effects, potentially causing the cells to proliferate at a dangerous clip. Dr. Migliara is exploring alternatives — safer ways to prolong the therapeutic efficacy of CAR T cells and defeat currently incurable cancers.

Dr. Migliara aspires to maintain his role in academia and continue developing new cell design principles that have the potential to change the future of cancer treatment. While his current research, supported by the Cancer Research Institute, is focused on cancer therapies, Dr. Migliara is excited by the possibility for this work to have even broader implications for other immune disorders and regenerative medicine.

To learn more about Dr. Migliara and Cancer Research Institute, visit: