The Schaffer research group applies molecular and cellular engineering approaches to investigate biomedical problems focused on engineering of stem cell and gene therapeutics. Our group is a part of the department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, and the Bioengineering Graduate Group at UC Berkeley.
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The Schaffer Lab
University of California, Berkeley
278 Stanley Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-3220
Lab Director/Administrative Assistant:
Lab Phone: (510) 642-4923
Fax: (510) 642-5198
David Schaffer is a Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Bioengineering, and Neuroscience at University of California, Berkeley, where he also serves as the Director of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center. He graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering in 1993. Afterward, he attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned his Ph.D. also in Chemical Engineering in 1998 with Professor Doug Lauffenburger, while minoring in Molecular and Cell Biology. Finally, he conducted a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Fred Gage at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA, before moving to UC Berkeley in 1999. At Berkeley, Dr. Schaffer applies engineering principles to enhance stem cell and gene therapy approaches for neuroregeneration. This work includes mechanistic investigation of stem cell control, as well as molecular evolution and engineering of viral gene delivery vehicles. David Schaffer has received an NSF CAREER Award, Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, Whitaker Foundation Young Investigator Award, and was named a Technology Review Top 100 Innovator. He was also awarded the American Chemical Society BIOT Division Young Investigator Award in 2006, the Biomedical Engineering Society Rita Shaffer Young Investigator Award in 2000, and was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering in 2010.
Our research group employs molecular and cellular engineering approaches to investigate biomedical problems. We are interested in the related areas of stem cell bioengineering, gene delivery systems, and molecular virology, with applications in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.
Many of our efforts are dedicated to understanding the biology and exploring the therapeutic potential of stem cells. Stem cells are immature cells that exist in various locations of our bodies. Throughout our lifetimes, these cells divide and develop into the specialized cells that perform the functions necessary for life. Therefore, if we contract a disease that kills those specialized cells, our stem cells are a potential source for replacing lost cells to counteract or even cure the disorder. There are several challenges that must be overcome in this field. In particular, efforts to engineer tissues rely upon the ability to control stem cells. That is, the signals that control stem cell function and fate must first be discovered, and then integrated into cellular microenvironments to control stem cell expansion and lineage-specific differentiation. We have efforts in novel signal discovery, computational and experimental analysis of the biological networks that cells use to interpret and implement these signals, and on the integration of these signals into synthetic, polymeric microenvironments for optimal stem cell control in collaboration with the group of Prof. Kevin Healy (Bioengineering). This blend of stem cell biology, systems biology analysis, and biomaterials engineering has led to significant advances in the application of stem cells for tissue repair.
Researchers: Tandis, Maroof, Goncalo, Barbara, Alyssa, Nicole, Anusuya, Sisi, Dawn, Jorge, Mike, Phillip, Olivia, Andrew, Sean, Brian, Alyssa and Riya
Our second major research thrust is dedicated to understanding the biology and exploring the therapeutic potential of gene delivery, which serves as an effective means to control stem cells. Gene therapy can be defined as the introduction of genetic material to the cells of an individual for therapeutic benefit. A variety of approaches are under development to use gene therapy for treating cancer, AIDS, and a number of inherited genetic disorders. For example, gene therapy could be used to replace the genes hemophilia patients are missing, to bolster the immune system to recognize and combat tumors, or to inhibit the replication of HIV virus. However, significant progress must still be made before these developing strategies become therapeutic realities. One of the most formidable obstacles to gene therapy is how to efficiently deliver genes to a sufficient number of cells to yield a therapeutic effect. A number of gene delivery vehicles, or vectors, are in development, and most exploit or emulate the abilities many viruses have evolved to deliver their genes to cells as part of their life cycles. However, while viruses have developed numerous strategies to deliver genes over millions of years of evolution, the efficiency and safety of vehicles based upon recombinant viruses must still be further improved. We have developed numerous high-throughput directed evolution approaches to engineer the properties of viral vehicles at the molecular level to enhance their abilities to deliver genes. These successful efforts are enhancing the abilities of several vectors to make them more effective at delivering gene "medicines."
Researchers: David, Maroof, Sabrina, Leah, Mervi, Tim, Jonathan, Benjamin and Thom
In parallel, we are interested in studying some basic aspects of viral biology. Specifically, viruses have evolved gene circuits that after infecting a cell execute programs to harness cells to reproduce the virus. We apply integrated systems biology approaches, composed of computational and experimental efforts, in collaboration with the group of Prof. Adam Arkin (Bioengineering) to how the structures of these gene circuits have dynamically evolved to optimize the virus' ability to hijack cells to maximize its ability to reproduce. This fundamental work is leading to new insights on how to combat viral infectious disease.
Researchers: Jayodita and Prajit
We plan for these related lines of research to converge in the future. If we can effectively deliver a gene, and we can learn much more about what kinds and levels of genes are needed to control stem cell behavior, we can attempt to apply this information to longer-term therapeutic goals. These aims could include using gene delivery to stimulate stem cells to divide more rapidly, to generate specific types of cells such as neurons, or to guide the successful integration of specific cell types into tissue for functional repair. It is our hope that this research will not only enhance our understanding of neuroscience, but also eventually alleviate the devastating effects of numerous diseases.
David V. Schaffer, Ph.D.
Group meetings are held on Mondays in 521 Stanley Hall from 1:30-3pm
Note: Research Format = Everyone will be presenting their current research