Special Seminar - Kam W Leong

Mar 03 2014

Role of Biomaterials and Genome Editing in Direct Cellular Reprogramming

Kam W Leong
James B. Duke Professor

Departments of Biomedical Engineering, and Surgery
Duke University, Durham, NC

March 12 at noon (12:00 pm) in the Davis Auditorium

Transdifferentiation, or direct reprogramming, where differentiated cells are reprogrammed into another lineage without going through an intermediate stem cell-like stage, is a promising step toward personalized regenerative medicine. To facilitate eventual translation of transdifferentiation technologies we have demonstrated the feasibility of converting fibroblasts into neurons by nonviral overexpression of transcription factors. The poor conversion efficiency of nonviral neuronal transdifferentiation prompted us to look for ways to optimize this process. I will highlight the role of topographical substrates in modulating the purity, conversion kinetics, and subtypes of the induced neurons generated by direct reprogramming. I will also discuss our recent effort on using CRISPR/Cas9 gene activation approach to achieve direct cellular reprogramming.


Kam W. Leong is the James B. Duke Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University. He received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. After serving as a faculty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine for almost 20 years, he moved to Duke University in 2006 to focus on understanding and exploiting the interactions of cells with nanostructures for therapeutic applications. His lab works on nanoparticle-mediated nonviral gene delivery and cancer immunotherapy, from design and synthesis of new carriers to mechanistic studies of identifying critical delivery barriers and to application for hemophilia and immunotherapy. The lab also works on the application of nanostructured biomaterials for regenerative medicine, particularly on understanding cell-topography interactions and on the application of nonviral vectors for direct cellular reprogramming. He has published ~280 peer-reviewed research manuscripts and owns more than 50 issued patents, leading to recent induction into the National Academy of Inventors. His work has been recognized by a Young Investigator Research Achievement Award of the Controlled Release Society, Distinguished Scientist Award of the International Journal of Nanomedicine, and Clemson Award for Applied Research of the Society for Biomaterials.  He is the co-Editor-in-Chief of Biomaterials, and also a member of the National Academy of Engineering.