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2021 Allen Distinguished Investigator award

The Allen Distinguished Investigator program provides three-year grants between $1M and $1.5M to individuals and teams

A fate-mapped human pluripotent stem cell library for designer organoids

Modern technologies that capture details of single cells across a large population of cells are shedding new light on many avenues of mammalian biology. Nozomu Yachie, Ph.D., Nika Shakiba, Ph.D., and Josef Penninger, M.D., are leading a project to apply these technologies to the study and improvement of organoids, lab-grown mini-organs grown from human stem cells. By tracing the “family trees” of cell fates as stem cells grow and form, the team hopes to better understand the complex tissues inside these mini-organs, ultimately to the point of directing cell fate in different directions to faithfully engineer different types of organoids. The team is also working to introduce a blood vessel system to organoids, merging vascular organoids with other types of organoids, to give the tissues supplies of nutrients and oxygen that will keep them alive in the lab for longer.

Nozomu Yachie, Ph.D. headshot

Nozomu Yachie, Ph.D.

University of British Columbia
Nika Shakiba headshot

Nika Shakiba, Ph.D.

University of British Columbia
Josef Penninger headshot

Josef Penninger, Ph.D.

University of British Columbia

This project is part of the 2021 Synthetic biology advances for human tissues cohort

The field of synthetic biology has made incredible advances in recent years, and yet the complexity of mammalian biology presents an additional challenge for scientists aiming to engineer tissue or organoids in the lab. The investigators in the Mammalian Synthetic Development cohort are working to cross many of the barriers to mammalian synthetic biology, including several approaches to improve the development and engineering of organoids, lab-grown mini-organs typically derived from human stem cells. Their work spans many parts of the human body, including the liver, lungs, brain, and connective tissues.