Cell Programming: Highlights of the 2023 Nano-Bio Symposium

Five people in chairs having a discussion with audience in an auditorium. There is a rectangular table with a black tablecloth with three microphones. The person on the far left is talking to the crowd.

From Robert Hooke’s hazy observations to today’s single cell sequences and super-resolution images, cells have been a central focus of biological investigation. On Friday, April 21, the Institute for NanoBioTechnology’s 16th Nano-Bio Symposium on Cell Programming explored breakthroughs in our ability to understand and program cells. This year marks the return of the Institute’s full in-person symposium since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the morning lectures, 10 guest speakers from across the Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, University of Maryland, Cartesian Therapeutics, IQVIA Cell and Gene Therapy Center, and Sana Biotechnology spoke to attendees about the growing diversity of cell fate and cell state in multicellular organisms. Keynote speaker, Steve Harr, president and CEO of Sana Biotechnology, as well as the other speakers in academia and industry, discussed the complexities of creating engineered cells using genetic, transcriptomic, and metabolic tools, as well as how they are using these methods in health care.

“The kind of collaboration going into this important work—between engineers, biologists, clinicians, and translational scientists, between the schools of Medicine, Engineering, Public Health, Arts and Sciences, and the APL—as well as those in other universities and industry–allows us to play to each other’s strengths to design innovative solutions. That’s why I’m confident that new collaborations and research advances will surely result from our time here together today,” said T.E. Schlesinger, the Benjamin T. Rome Dean at the Whiting School of Engineering.

In the afternoon, the Institute hosted a networking reception and poster competition, which featured research by undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows across the INBT and Johns Hopkins. With the help of volunteer judges, over 45 people competed for five cash prizes, which were sponsored by the INBT and Tom and Lois Fekete. Tom Fekete is the former INBT director of corporate partnerships and retired in 2018 after ten years at the INBT and he has been generously sponsoring the undergraduate award since 2019. He was also in attendance to present the award and serve as a poster judge for the postdoctoral fellow competitors.

The symposium’s theme was also an unveiling of a new research area for the INBT. INBT’s leadership, Hai-Quan Mao, director and professor of materials science and engineering, and Sashank Reddy, associate director and associate professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery, hope to keep use the momentum from the symposium to increase research collaborations and push the frontiers of the cell programming research field.


Steve Harr, MD
Cell Programming in the Real World 
President and Chief Executive Officer of Sana Biotechnology

Christopher Jewell, PhD
Engineering Next Generation Cell Therapies with RNA CARs
Chief Scientific Officer, Cartesian Therapeutics
Minta Martin Professor and MPower Professor, University of Maryland

Challice Bonifant, MD, PhD
Engineering Immune Cells as Leukemia Killers
Assistant Professor of Oncology, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Patrick Cahan, PhD
Computational Tools for Cell Fate Engineering 
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Maximilian Konig, MD
Precision T-Cell Therapies to Target Autoreactive B Cells in Autoimmune Diseases
Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Robert Johnston, PhD
Cone Subtype Specification in Human Retinal Organoids 
Associate Professor of Biology, Johns Hopkins University

Amritha Jaishankar, PhD
Executive Director, IQVIA Cell and Gene Therapy Center

Murat Kalayoglu, MD, PhD
Chief Executive Officer of Cartesian Therapeutics

Jagesh Shah, PhD
Vice President of Gene Therapy Technologies, Sana Biotechnology

Mandeep Singh, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Poster Winners

Best Undergraduate Poster
Bobbi Ni
Immune Kinetics & Characterization of a Composite for Tissue Remodeling

Best Graduate Posters
Tracy Chung
Comparing Barrier Dysfunction in Response to Chronic and Acute Oxidative Stress in Tissue Engineered Blood-Brain Barrier Microvessels

Sixuan Li
Uncovering Nucleic Acid Payload and Size of Lipid Nanoparticles via A High-throughput Single Nanoparticle Analyzer

Best Postdoctoral Fellow
Willem Buys
Feeder- and Xeno-Free Tankyrase/PARP Inhibitor-Regulated Naive Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells with Improved Functionality

People’s Choice Poster
Isabella Vegas
Human Naïve Stem Cells Express Master Pioneer Factors DUX4 and CPHXL