2014 SRF Summer Scholar Profile: Rahul Rekhi

My name is Rahul Rekhi, and I am currently on a Marshall Scholarship at Oxford University, where I am pursuing an Masters of Science in Biomedical Engineering. Prior to my time at Oxford, I completed a Bachelor of Science Degree in Bioengineering and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Rice University summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. While a student at Rice, I conducted a number of biomedical research topics across the Bioscience Research Collaborative and the MD Anderson Cancer Center. A principal research focus of mine during this time lay in angiogenesis. Specifically, I worked under Dr. Amina Qutub to design computational models of blood vessel formation with the long-term goal of aiding therapeutic discovery and design by way of predictive simulations. We found, for instance, that drug candidates targeting specific cell behaviors are predicted to result in markedly greater reductions in angiogenic activity. This work has been showcased in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, among other outlets.

Optimization of Large-Scale Allogeneic Cell Therapy Bioprocessing

This summer, I am working to synthesize and improve upon optimization tools to aid in the large-scale production of cell therapies. This emerging class of medicinal product involves the application of cells to promote human cell function and regeneration, and its potential is vast. However, while optimization tools have been exploited successfully to facilitate the scale-up of other drugs and devices, the use of these tools in cell therapy production remains limited. Yet, as cell therapeutics become ever-more vital diagnostic and therapeutic tools in biomedical engineering, the need to enable scaling of these technologies becomes critical. This summer, I seek to help address this growing gap in cell therapy biomanufacturing—in part by leveraging existing decision engineering frameworks for biopharmaceuticals—by reviewing existing cell therapy manufacturing support tools and building a model that improves on these existing efforts.

Figure 1. Same biomanufacturing process pathway, by cell type.

This figure showcases the bioprocessing pathway taken by cells during the biomanufacturing process. The blue bounding box indicated the scope of the optimixation tools.

Future Plans:

Ultimately, this work helps to further one of my core aspirations: to increase the pace of biomedical innovation and ensure that the most cutting-edge medical technology that humanity has to offer is made affordable, accessible, and available worldwide. Throughout my career—and with work cutting across government, academia, and industry—I hope to advance this cause.

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