Research Team

As principal investigator in the T Cell Engineering Lab, Dr. Kenderian leads a team focused on developing new ways of fighting cancer using chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapies. Learn more about Dr. Kenderian and his research team:

  • Saad J. Kenderian, M.B., Ch.B.

    Dr. Kenderian's research is focused on cellular engineering and gene and viral therapy, specifically on the development and optimization of engineered cell therapies for the treatment of diseases. His clinical expertise is in the management of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, patients treated with CAR-T cell therapy, and bone marrow transplantation.

    He completed a fellowship in hematology and medical oncology at Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education (now Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education) and received a Mayo Clinic scholar award in 2013. Dr. Kenderian joined the translational research program in the laboratory of Carl H. June, M.D. of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where he worked under the direction of Dr. June and Saar Gill, M.D., Ph.D. His work involved the development of novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy for acute myeloid leukemia as well as different strategies to improve CAR-T cell therapy for lymphoid malignancies.

    Dr. Kenderian's laboratory employs multiple tools for cellular engineering and development of gene and cell therapies, including standard cloning techniques, lentiviral transduction, retrovirus constructs, oncolytic viruses, mesenchymal stromal cells, T cell functional assays, patient-derived xenograft immunodeficient mouse models, humanized mouse models, syngeneic models, multiparameter flow cytometry, bioluminescent imaging, multiplex cytokine analysis and genome engineering tools.

    Read about Dr. Kenderian's awards and professional highlights.

  • Mohamad M. Adada, M.D., Ph.D.

    Mohamad M. Adada, M.D., Ph.D.

    Dr. Adada is a clinical fellow in hematology and oncology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He completed his M.D. and Ph.D. at Stony Brook University in New York, where his research involved identifying novel targets to inhibit cancer metastasis, prior to joining Mayo Clinic in 2017. His primary research focus is the development of novel methods to increase CAR-T therapeutic efficacy through combination therapy with novel kinase inhibitors.

    Awards

    • Mayo Clinic Division of Hematology Small Grant Award, 2021
    • Chief resident of the Mayo Clinic Clinician-Investigator Training Program, 2020-2022
  • Evandro D. Bezerra, M.D.

    Evandro D. Bezerra, M.D.

    Dr. Bezerra is a clinical fellow in hematology and oncology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He completed his medical residency at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and at the University of Washington in Seattle prior to joining Mayo Clinic in 2019. His primary research interest is adoptive cellular immunotherapy, with a specific focus on anti-CD19 CAR-T cell therapy (CAR-T19) for B cell malignancies. He is currently working on mechanisms and predictors of resistance to CAR-T19 and hopes to find approaches to overcome CAR-T19 resistance.

    Awards

    • ASH Abstract Achievement Award, 2017 and 2019
  • Ismail Can

    Ismail Can

    Ismail Can joined the T Cell Engineering Laboratory as a graduate student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology track at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 2020. He is currently focusing on understanding the mechanisms of CAR-T cell therapy failures. He aims to enhance CAR-T cell efficacy and to expand the applications of CAR-T cell therapy to additional diseases. He obtained his undergrad degree in molecular biology and genetics at Izmir Institute of Technology in Turkey. He studied the identification of novel targeted therapies in several cancers at Istanbul University in Turkey and the University of Utah before he joined Mayo Clinic.

  • Michelle J. Cox, M.S.

    Michelle J. Cox, M.S.

    Michelle Cox joined the T Cell Engineering Lab at Mayo Clinic as a research technologist in 2017 when she was accepted into the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BICB) graduate program at the University of Minnesota. Cox's research is focused on using gene editing methods to improve the function of chimeric antigen receptor CAR-T cells and using computational tools to study differential expression. Cox received her Master of Science in BICB from the University of Minnesota in 2019 and is currently a Ph.D. student.

    Awards

    • Poster Competition Winner, 12th Annual Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Research Symposium, 2020
    • Best Abstract Award and Plenary Presentation for TCT, 2020
    • Quality Metrics Award, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, University of Minnesota, 2019
    • Faculty Nominated Speaker, 6th Annual BICB Industry Symposium, University of Minnesota, 2019
    • ASH Abstract Achievement Award, 61st ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition, 2019
    • Quality Metrics Award, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, University of Minnesota, 2018
  • Mehrdad Hefazi Torghabeh, M.D.

    Mehrdad Hefazi Torghabeh, M.D.

    Dr. Hefazi Torghabeh is a research fellow in hematology and oncology at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota. His primary research interest is allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation, with a specific focus on graft-versus-host disease. He is currently working on CAR-T regulatory cells (CAR-Tregs) and hopes to learn new approaches in translational research in Dr. Kenderian's lab.

    Awards

    • Outstanding Hematology/Oncology Fellow, Minnesota Society of Medical Oncology, 2019
    • ECOG-ACCRIN Paul Carbone, MD Fellowship Award, 2019
    • Clinical Research Training Institute, ASH, 2018
  • Lionel A. Kankeu Fonkoua, M.D.

    Lionel A. Kankeu Fonkoua, M.D.

    Dr. Kankeu Fonkoua is a clinical fellow in hematology and oncology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He completed his Medical School and Internal Medicine Residency at Pennsylvania State University in Hershey, Pennsylvania, prior to joining Mayo Clinic in 2018. His primary research focus is the development of novel combinatorial immunotherapeutic strategies, including CAR-T cell therapy, for the treatment of gastrointestinal cancers.

    Awards

    • American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Young Investigator Award, 2020
    • Minnesota Society of Medical Oncology (MSCO) Outstanding Hematology/Oncology Fellow Award, 2020
    • Mayo Clinic Division of Oncology Small Grant Award, 2020
  • Claudia Manriquez Roman, M.Sc.

    Claudia Manriquez Roman, M.Sc.

    Claudia Manriquez Roman is a predoctoral graduate student in the Virology and Gene Therapy Program (VGT) at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Her research focus is understanding the mechanism of action of CAR-T cells as a targeted cellular therapy to improve their efficacy in B-cell lymphomas. In addition, Roman has been accepted into the Regenerative Sciences Training Program (RSTP), Mayo Clinic's new Ph.D. training program.

    She earned a bachelor's degree in microbiology and a master's degree in biological sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). In addition to her studies at UTEP, she focused on research in therapeutic and vaccine targets for parasitic infectious diseases.

    Awards

    • Mayo Clinic Department of Molecular Medicine Small Grant Award, 2019
  • Michael W. Ruff, M.D.

    Michael W. Ruff, M.D.

    Dr. Ruff has a dual appointment as a consultant in neurology and medical oncology at Mayo Clinic. He attended the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia, graduating in 2013. He completed a neurology residency and a fellowship in neuro-oncology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. His focus in Dr. Kenderian's lab involves using CAR-T cell therapy to treat glioblastoma.

    Awards

    • Brains Together For a Cure Grant, BTFC, 2018-2019
  • Reona (Leo) Sakemura, M.D., Ph.D.

    Reona (Leo) Sakemura, M.D., Ph.D.

    Dr. Sakemura completed a fellowship in hematology and medical oncology in Japan and joined the translational research program of the Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine in Nagoya, Japan. There, he developed inducible chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy for acute lymphocytic leukemia.

    After his doctoral training, he joined the T Cell Engineering Lab to develop CAR-T cell therapies that target the microenvironment of hematological malignancies and combine CAR-T cell therapy with small molecule inhibitors. Dr. Sakemura' s research focus is adoptive cellular therapy and allogeneic transplantation for hematological malignancies. His goal is to become an independent translational investigator in the development of novel chimeric antigen receptor-T cell therapies.

    Awards

    • ASH Abstract Achievement Award, 61st ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition, 2019
    • Predolin Foundation Career Development Award, 2019
    • Multiple Myeloma SPORE Career Development, 2017
  • Kendall J. Schick

    Kendall J. Schick

    Kendall Schick graduated from Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska, with a bachelor's degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. After graduation, he was accepted into the Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (MPET) program at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. His research focus is the development of novel CAR-T cell therapies for autoimmune disease and cancer.

  • Elizabeth (Liz) L. Siegler, Ph.D., M.S.

    Elizabeth (Liz) L. Siegler, Ph.D., M.S.

    Dr. Siegler is a research technologist in the T Cell Engineering Lab at Mayo Clinic. Her research in Dr. Kenderian's lab focuses on CAR-T cell production using nonviral methods. She completed her bachelor's and master's degrees in biomedical engineering at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 2014, and earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 2019.

    Awards

    • Translational Research Award, Regenerative Medicine Minnesota, 2021
  • Erin E. Tapper

    Erin E. Tapper

    Erin Tapper earned a bachelor's degree in genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2015 and has a strong research background in molecular biology. Her primary research in the T Cell Engineering Lab is focused on assessing the function of current clinical CAR-T19 therapy.