2019 SRF Summer Scholar Profile: Danielle Hoffman

Danielle Hoffman

SRF Summer Scholar, Class of 2019

Harvard Medical School

Hi! My name is Danielle Hoffman, and I am pursuing a double major in microbiology and public health. I have had the honor to spend this summer working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics and Imaging (CSTI). I have been working under the guidance of my PI, Dr. Khalid Shah, and with my mentor Dr. Filippo Rossignoli. The Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics and Imaging focuses on the development of novel cell-based therapies for cancer. Through the utilization of stem cell and tumor cell biology as well as genetic engineering and molecular imaging, CSTI advances the field of targeted cell therapies. Prior to my research at CSTI, I was working in a microbiology lab at UMass Amherst under Dr. Mandy Muller. My project involved gaining an understanding of Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) lytic replication through the characterization of a key protein. My research experience has provided me with a solid foundation for my current project, and I am looking forward to these last few upcoming weeks!

Engineered cell-based therapies have gained a leading role in the context of advanced therapies, especially for treating various forms of cancer. The unpredictable nature of these cells post-treatment is why it is important to have a system in place to control the cells in the long-term. Ultimately, it is necessary to develop a highly efficient system to kill all engineered cells post-therapeutic treatment. My project is focused around the design and implementation of a dual-kill switch. A combination suicide gene that utilizes two kill switches in the event that one does not work with complete efficacy. In order for engineered cell therapies to move ahead into further clinical trials, their safety needs to be a key priority. The safety of these therapies can only be ensured with a 100% effective suicide switch that will eliminate every engineered cell. Through the cloning of various suicide genes into expression vectors, I will be able to determine the efficacy of each individual suicide gene as well as the efficacy of dual suicide genes in several cell lines. An all-encompassing safety switch incorporated into cell-based therapies will allow for further clinical trials to take place and ultimately more patients receiving these lifesaving treatments.

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