Nir Hacohen, Ph.D.
Institute Member, Director of the Cell Circuits Program
Nir Hacohen has pioneered systems biology tools that generate comprehensive cellular and molecular models of immunological processes and enable personalized immunotherapies. In the area of cell-level systems biology, he carried out genome-wide genetic screens in primary immune cells and identified genetic variants, transcription factors, chromatin regulators, signaling proteins, RNA and protein synthesis-degradation mechanisms, and splicing factors driving the sensing of pathogens by myeloid cells. In the area of cell type discovery, he contributed to the Human Cell Atlas by discovering new immune cell types including human dendritic cell subsets and their progenitors as well as T cells and their differentiation states. He also identified cell states associated with disease in bacterial/viral sepsis, lupus nephritis, and cancer immunity, and discovered spatially organized immune cell structures in tumors. In the area of cancer vaccines, he created machine learning-based methods to predict cancer antigens, and developed the first personalized approach to immunotherapy using vaccines that target patient-specific tumor neoantigens. This led to clinical trials in melanoma and glioblastoma multiforme, demonstrating induction of tumor-specific T cells that kill malignant cells and are durable for many years. His lab is currently working on using systems-level technologies to understand mechanisms of human immune diseases and model them in mice, with the goal of catalyzing new therapeutic strategies.
Hacohen is an institute member and the director of the Center for Cell Circuits at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He is the director of the Center for Cancer Immunology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the David P. Ryan Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Hacohen is a recipient of the NIH Director’s Innovator Award, the MGH Scholars Award, and the Martin Prize. He completed his Ph.D. in biochemistry at Stanford, and was a fellow at the Whitehead Institute at MIT. Hacohen developed an international workshop for advancing the careers of young cancer immunologists. He also founded Neon Therapeutics, which is now part of BioNTech.