Diversity Summit Lecture: Aseem Z. Ansari, Ph.D.
Synthetic Transcription Factors: Precision-tailored chemical transcription factors for personalized medicine
The Ansari group has pioneered the development of synthetic transcription factors (SynTFs) to control desired gene regulatory networks and guide cell fate choices. In a sense, SynTFs could be viewed as chemical counterparts of the much larger CRISPR-Cas based gene regulators.
Integrating structure-guided design and chemical genomics, the Ansari group created an exciting class of molecules that can rewire epigenetic states at targeted genomic loci. SynTFs designed to reverse repressive epigenetic marks have restored expression of genes whose deficiency causes incurable neuronal diseases such as Friedreich’s ataxia, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that has no effective therapy. More broadly, SynTFs can be precision-tailored to understand and remedy a wide array of human diseases.
Aseem Ansari is the R. J. Ulrich Chair of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the founder of the Khorana and Bose Programs.
Ansari began his scientific career as a summer intern in the laboratory of Obaid Siddiqi at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Bombay. That experience led him to graduate studies in Chemical Biology at Northwestern University. Ansari completed his training postdoctoral training as a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was also a resident tutor at the Winthrop House and member of the Board of Tutors in Biochemical Sciences at Harvard. The Ansari Lab works on devising synthetic gene switches that control the fate of human embryonic stem cells and correct gene regulatory networks in neurodegenerative diseases.