Michael Birnbaum, Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Biological Engineering
Institution
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Address
77 Massachusetts Ave., 76-353D
City, State, Zip
Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone
(617) 715-2355
E-mail
mbirnb@mit.edu
Website
http://birnbaum-lab.mit.edu/
Research Field
Cancer Immunology
Award Year
2018

Research

The Birnbaum lab studies ways to engineer T cells that can more effectively target cancer for destruction. In response to a foreign microbe or tumor, T cells trigger a cascade of signals to alert the immune system to find and destroy the unfamiliar cells. Immunotherapy, a promising new class of cancer therapies, involves stimulating or redirecting the immune system to fight tumors. One particularly promising immunotherapy, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-expressing T cells, removes T cells from a patient’s body and engineers them to make CARs, proteins that are designed to specifically identify and destroy a tumor. Our research combines protein engineering, structural biology, and bioinformatics to study how immune cells distinguish between normal cells and cells that are altered by cancer. By studying these differences, we will develop methods of engineering CARs that are more effective in targeting cancer cells. My lab will test these newly developed immunotherapies in mouse models of cancer, including types that are particularly difficult to treat. Work from this research could inform a better understanding of immune cell function and create safer, more effective immunotherapies to treat a variety of cancers.

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