Alex K. Shalek, PhD
Pfizer-Laubach Career Development Associate Professor
Institute for Medical Engineering & Science
Department of Chemistry and Koch Institute
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Abstract: While several methods exist for sampling tissues in clinical contexts, without high-fidelity tools for comprehensively profiling them, we are both limited in our capacity to understand how constituent cells and their interactions impact prognosis, and to select and develop precision therapeutics. Recent years have witnessed transformative and intersecting advances in nanofabrication and molecular biology that now enable deep profiling of low-input samples. Collectively, these afford new and exciting opportunities to study cellular heterogeneity, starting from the level of the single cell, and may unlock the diagnostic, prognostic, and discovery potential of clinical isolates. Illustratively, I will introduce how we can leverage single-cell genomic approaches – and, in particular, single-cell RNA-Seq – to explore the extensive functional diversity between cells, uncovering, from the “bottom-up,” distinct cell states and their molecular drivers. Moreover, I will discuss high-throughput experimental strategies and demonstrate, in the context of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, how they can be leveraged to achieve the statistical power necessary to reconstruct intracellular circuits, enumerate and redefine cell states and types, and transform our understanding of cellular decision-making in health and disease on a genomic scale.
Bio: Alex K. Shalek is currently the Pfizer-Laubach Career Development Associate Professor at MIT, as well as a Core Member of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), an Associate Professor of Chemistry, and an Extramural Member of The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. He is also an Institute Member of the Broad Institute, an Associate Member of the Ragon Institute, an Assistant in Immunology at MGH, and an Instructor in Health Sciences and Technology at HMS. His research is directed towards the development and application of new technologies that facilitate understanding of how cells collectively perform systems-level functions in healthy and diseased states. Dr. Shalek received his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Columbia University and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in chemical physics under the guidance of Hongkun Park, and performed postdoctoral training under Hongkun Park and Aviv Regev (Broad/MIT). To date, his interdisciplinary research has focused on realizing and utilizing nanoscale manipulation and measurement technologies to examine how small components (molecules, cells) drive systems of vast complexity (cellular responses, population behaviors).