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Education and Training

2023: Postdoctoral Scholar, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA
2018: Ph.D. in Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
2011: B.S. in Pharmacy, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea

Areas of Interest

The Chung lab harnesses the anti-tumor potential of our immune system via synthetic biology. 

In our body, T cells – including CAR-Ts – differentiate into multiple cell states with distinct functions, migration patterns, and memory capacities. However, we have limited toolkits for engineering these cell types. By leveraging on our laboratory’s expertise in T cell differentiation and synthetic biology, we aim to enhance our own immune system’s natural abilities to fight cancer. More specifically, we employ protein engineering, next-generation sequencing, CRISPR screening, and bioinformatics to achieve three research objectives.

1)  Transcription factor recipes for T cell programming: We are identifying transcription factor recipes to transform T cells into ideal therapeutic states. We combine (1) multiomics atlas-based transcription factor analysis platform and (2) in vivo single-cell CRISPR screening. We have discovered novel transcription factors whose perturbation synergizes with immune checkpoint blockade, enhancing tumor control. We are now screening for transcription factor combinations whose simultaneous perturbation allows effective cell state reprogramming (vs single knockout).

2)  Synthetic toolkits for designer immunity: We are developing clinically applicable synthetic biology tools for context-specific cell state programming. Based on our previous works (Science 2019, Nature Chemical Biology 2015), we are currently working on two different platforms: (1) drug-inducible transcription factor circuits that allow temporal switching of cell states and (2) signal rewiring platforms for immune receptors such as chemokine, inhibitory, and nuclear receptors, which redirect user-defined unwanted signaling activation to execute therapeutic responses.
3)  Hijacking tumor for T cell programming: We are hijacking tumors’ translational system with oncolytic viruses to encode powerful – yet controllable – immune and TME modulators. In the past, we have developed the first drug-controllable, synthetic oncolytic RNA virus. Building upon this work, we now want to engineer the virus to facilitate synthetic crosstalk between tumor and T cell. This will enable long-lived memory T cells that can prevent future tumor recurrence.

Awards and Honors (selected)

2023 K01 Research Scientist Development Award, NIH
2020 Keystone Symposia Future of Science Fund Scholarship, Keystone Symposia
2019 HHMI Hanna H. Gray Fellows Finalist, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
2019 Damon Runyon Fellowship Award, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
2019 AACR Anna D. Barker Award, American Association for Cancer Research (gratefully declined)
2019 Salk Women & Science Special Award, Salk Institute for Biological Studies
2018 IUBMB travel award, The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
2017 Hans Neurath Outstanding Promise Travel Award, The Hans Neurath Foundation
2016 Mogam Science Fellowship, Mogam Science Scholarship Foundation
2015 Excellence in Teaching Award, Stanford University
2013 The Finn World Travel Awards, The Protein Society
2012-2016 Stanford Graduate Fellowship, Stanford University



Kay Chung