Hormoz lab’s mission is to control biological systems to understand life and cure disease. We want to understand how different cell states emerge in diverse biological systems (viruses, bacteria, and mammalian cells) and use this knowledge to generate desired and even new cell states in a dish. For example, we try to generate blood stem cells from skin fibroblast cells and evolve viruses for gene therapy. To do so, we develop new technologies to measure the molecular states of single cells. These high throughput measurements create two challenges. First, the resulting data sets are high-dimensional and difficult to interpret. To understand the data, we use tools from differential geometry and machine learning. Second, high throughput measurements destroy the cells and provide only static snapshots. To obtain information about the dynamics, we use synthetic biology to engineer cells to record their histories in their own DNA. Finally, we develop organoid systems and microfluidic platforms to control cell states in vitro using the understanding obtained from the high throughput data. Ultimately, we aim to automate the process of measuring and modeling of biological systems so that our understanding and control of biology is not limited by human cognition.
About Sahand: Sahand obtained his PhD in Applied Physics from Harvard University working with Michael Brenner. His postdoctoral studies were conducted jointly as a theorist at the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics (UCSB) with Boris Shraiman, and as an experimentalist in the lab of Michael Elowitz at Caltech. He is now with the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Data Science at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.