Stem cells, Synthetic biology, Engineered cell therapies, Pluripotency
Dr. Nika Shakiba is an Allen Distinguished Investigator and Assistant Professor in SBME at UBC. Her research program is interested in understanding the social lives of stem cells. Her lab applies a combined systems and synthetic biology approach to reverse- and forward-engineer the competitive interactions between cells in developmental systems. Prior to joining SBME, Nika was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completed her PhD in the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at University of Toronto. Nika is a big believer in outreach and mentorship. Beyond her research and teaching, she is passionate about providing equity in mentorship & advice access through her latest project, Advice to a Scientist (https://advicetoascientist.com/).
To forward engineer the fitness of stem cells and their derivatives, the Shakiba Lab develops synthetic genetic circuits that rely on feedback/feedforward motifs to precisely control the expression of key fitness genes. Steered by computational models that map the expression of key genes to cell fitness, the Shakiba Lab is developing a novel class of engineered stem cells with customizable competition potential. These efforts will contribute to key improvements in the efficiency of cell therapy manufacturing while enhancing the clinical efficacy of cell therapies and engineered tissues.