Alejandro Aguilera Castrejón in the lab holding up a small vial of red culture medium

What’s Next for Alejandro Aguilera Castrejón

MIT Koch Institute

Catch up with Alejandro Aguilera Castrejón, an inaugural winner of the Angelika Amon Young Scientist Award in 2022. Aguilera talks about his plans for building on his doctoral work in embryogenesis and starting a new lab when he begins his new role as a group leader at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus in March 2024.

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Hydrogels for Biologics

MIT News

The Doyle and Hammond Labs created hydrogel particles for biologics. In a study appearing in Advanced Healthcare Materialsresearchers delivered the cancer immunotherapy pembrolizumab (Keytruda) via single injection. Normally, the drug must be administered in dilute solution over several hours, in a hospital or clinic.

Eyeing FDA approval in the next few years, the team notes their platform could also resuscitate drugs for which adequately concentrated formulations have remained elusive. This innovative approach can improve the patient experience, decrease the healthcare costs, and improve access to healthcare while bringing value to the industry.

Targets Acquired

MIT News

The Anderson Lab’s new inhalable lipid nanoparticles deliver mRNA to the lung and show greater efficiency, better targeting of cell populations, and lower risk of immune response over other formulations. Described in Nature Biotechnology, the nanoparticle’s key design features include a positively charged headgroup to engage the negatively charged RNA, a long lipid tail to help particles cross the cell membrane, and a structure that breaks down and is quickly cleared from the lung reducing risk of inflammation. Unlike virus-based RNA delivery methods, which induce an immune response upon repeat dosing, the nanoparticles can be delivered multiple times if needed.

Cancer Drug Pairing Overcomes Antibiotic Resistance

MIT News

With international collaborators, the Chen Lab has helped identify a new therapy for vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis (VRE). VRE can cause a number of serious infections, including urinary tract, bloodstream, and wound infections associated with catheters or surgical procedures. In a study appearing in Science Advances, the team identified a synergistic relationship between the antibiotic vanomycin and mitoxantrone, a cancer drug used for leukemia and prostate cancer.

Given in combination, the drugs increased sensitivity of the bacterium to the antibiotics, and improved wound healing. As bacterial resistance to vancomycin is widespread, the discovery could be a general approach for treating vancomycin-resistant bacterial infections.   

Illuminating a Path to Approval


Lumicell’s single-cell imaging technology for eliminating residual cancer cells during tumor resection is one step closer to the clinic. Following fast track designations for the imaging agent/device pair and the recent conclusion of a pivotal trial in breast cancer patients, the company has filed a New Drug Application on its signature platform.

The technology’s early development was supported by the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program via the Curt and Kathy Marble Cancer Research Fund.

Image Awards Unveiled

MIT Koch Institute

Spring is in the air and the KI Public Galleries are aglow with new images. Showcasing a range of biological investigations and technological innovations, the 2023 Image Awards exhibition opened on March 16 with lightning talks and a People’s Choice Award sponsored by Fujifilm. The prizes were given to the Jacks and Hwang Labs’ “That Takes Nerve” and the Boehm Lab’s “Just Grow With It,” but all ten winning images were presented with insight and humor. See this year’s images in the spotlight in Popular ScienceNature, and on Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien (beginning at 18:40).

Consequential Changes

Nature Portfolio

In Nature Portfolio, Francisco Sánchez-Rivera discusses his collaboration with Agilent Technologies to develop a tool reliable enough to support his work in precision genome editing. Sánchez-Rivera studies the impact of individual sequence mutations on cancer development, with an eye toward understanding how these mutations alter tumor response to therapy.

Pi-Time for a 24-Hour Challenge

MIT 24-Hour Challenge

MIT’s 24-Hour Challenge triumphantly returns to Pi Day! This year’s KI microchallenge benefits the Koch Institute Director’s Endowed Fund. This endowed unrestricted support provides the stability and flexibility crucial to our ability to plan thoughtfully, and commit to new research and programs that support our trainees and faculty members. We hope you’ll consider joining us on Tuesday, 3.14, when we’ll be looking for contributions from 100 donors to help us secure a $5,000 gift from an anonymous alumni couple. Gifts from another 25 donors will unlock an additional $5,000 gift from Lindsay Androski ’98. In addition to our MIT 24-Hour Challenge donors, we also recognize Haejin Baek ’86 for her contribution in establishing the Koch Institute Director’s Endowed Fund.

Go Big for the KI in STAT Madness


Show KI researchers your support in STAT’s annual bracket-style tournament to find the best innovations in science and medicine from the past year. Register or sign in to your free STAT account to vote for these three projects with big potential for human health: Matchup 3: the Li Lab’s easy-to-use test for predicting Covid-19 immunity Matchup 4: the Bhatia Lab’s nanoparticle sensor to detect bacterial vs. viral pneumonia

Science Surfaces Opens in the KI Public Galleries

MIT News

Science Surfaces, a capsule collection of student-designed body coverings and accessories inspired by the 2022 Image Awards exhibition, will be on display in the Koch Institute Public Galleries through April. The exhibition showcases the result of the inaugural Peers + Pros Project, a Boston Fashion Week creative learning initiative catalyzed by Cambridge Science Festival and sponsored in part by the Koch Institute.

Sensor-y Details

Harvard Business School

Greg Ekchian, KI alum and Stratagen Bio co-founder, talks to Harvard Business School about his device that measures oxygen levels in tumors. The first postdoc to receive a Blavatnik Fellowship, Ekchian combines his passions for science and entrepreneurship as he transforms the sensor that he developed in the Cima Lab into a commercially available tool to improve cancer treatment.