Alex Shalek, Ph.D.

Alex Shalek

Alex K. Shalek is an institute member of Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. To date, Shalek’s interdisciplinary research has focused on developing and utilizing nanoscale manipulation and measurement technologies to understand how small components (e.g., molecules, cells) drive systems of vast complexity (e.g., cellular responses, population behaviors).

The interdisciplinary research in the Shalek Lab aims to create and implement new approaches to elucidate cellular and molecular features that inform tissue-level function and dysfunction across the spectrum of human health and disease. This encompasses both the development of broadly enabling technologies as well as their application to characterize, model, and rationally control complex multicellular systems. With respect to technology development, the lab couples genomics, chemical biology, and nanotechnology to establish accessible, broadly-applicable cross-disciplinary platforms that enable them and others to profile and control cells and their interactions within complex multicellular systems. In addition to sharing this toolbox to empower mechanistic scientific inquiry across the global research community, the lab is applying it to uncover principles that inform ensemble immune responses within tissues, focusing on the roles of cellular heterogeneity and cell-to-cell communication.

Current studies with partners around the world seek to methodically dissect human disease to understand links between cellular features and clinical observations, including how: immune cells coordinate balanced responses to environmental changes with tissue-resident cells; host cell-pathogen interactions evolve across time and tissues during pathogenic infection; and tumor cells evade homeostatic immune activity. From these observations and those of others, they aim to construct a unified understanding of how disease alters tissue function at the cellular level and realize therapeutic and prophylactic interventions to reestablish or maintain human health. Overall, they hope that their principled, comprehensive approach not only provides valuable experimental and computational tools to advance many avenues of scientific inquiry, but also transforms how the community studies and engineers human immune responses in tissues.

In addition to his role at Broad, Shalek is the J. W. Kieckhefer Professor in the Institute for Medical Engineering & Science and the Department of Chemistry at MIT, and an extramural member of The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. He is also a member of the Ragon Institute, an assistant in immunology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and an instructor in health sciences and technology at Harvard Medical School.

Shalek received his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Columbia University and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in chemical physics.

September 2023