Current Trainees

Arvin Gouw, PhD
Mentors: Dean Felsher and Richard Zare

Project Title: Inhibition of MYC-induced lipogenesis suppresses tumor progression

Dr. Gouw received his BA in Molecular Cell Biology - Neurobiology and MA in Endocrinology from University of California, Berkeley. He then earned MPhil from the University of Pennsylvania studying philosophy of science. His PhD work on cancer metabolism was done at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. His current postdoctoral work at Stanford University School of Medicine is under the guidance of Dr. Dean Felsher and Dr. Richard Zare, investigating the role of lipid metabolism in MYC and RAS-driven cancers using Desorption Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry Imaging (DESI-MSI). 

Viola Chen, MD
Mentors: Alice Fan and Shan Wang

Project Title: Developing Liquid Biopsy Methods for Predicting Early Disease and Therapeutic Drug Response in Localized and Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma Patients

Dr. Chen received her MD from Georgetown University and completed her residency at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Inspired by the molecular drivers of cancer through clinical research in radiosurgery for prostate cancer, Viola spent a year performing basic science research with support from the HHMI-NIH Research Scholars Program during medical school. With mentorship from hereditary kidney cancer specialist, Dr. Marston Linehan at the NIH, she assisted in characterizing and testing various metabolic profiles of hereditary and spontaneously mutated kidney cancer cell lines against various tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). She worked to propose novel drug mechanisms of action by investigating cancer cell metabolomics which ultimately led to a collaborative paper published in Cancer Cell. As a second-year research-track oncology fellow at Stanford, Viola is interested in elucidating novel relationships in cell signaling pathways through next-generation DNA and RNA sequencing analysis combined with nanoimmunoassay (NIA) on actual patient samples undergoing therapy to discover potential biomarkers of early resistance to TKIs or new combinatorial agents designed to promote the real-time application of nanotechnology to personalized medicine.  

Timothy Blake, PhD
Mentors: Robert Waymouth and Paul Wender

Project Title: mRNA Vaccination with Charge-Altering Releasable Transporters Cures Established Experimental Tumors

Dr. Blake received his BS in Chemistry from the University of California, Irvine. He then moved to Stanford University to receive his PhD in Chemistry under the guidance of Prof. Robert M. Waymouth. Tim’s PhD work focused on the development of catalytic methods for the synthesis of environmentally responsive, water-soluble polyesters. In a collaborative project with Prof. Paul A. Wender, Tim and co-workers employed these responsive materials to develop a highly efficient nanoparticle-based messenger RNA (mRNA) delivery platform, allowing for robust expression of protein in both cell culture and live animals. As a postdoctoral research fellow, under the advisement of Prof. Robert M. Waymouth and Prof. Ronald Levy, Tim is leveraging the materials developed during his PhD for nanoparticle-based cancer vaccination strategies via mRNA mediated protein expression. 

Travis M. Shaffer, PhD
Mentors: Sanjiv Sam Gambhir and Jianghong Rao

Project Title: Building an expanded resonant Raman Nanoparticle library by utilizing multiple excitation wavelength lasers

Travis received his Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry from Gannon University in 2011. Following this, he headed to New York City for his doctorate in Chemistry under the mentorship of Jan Grimm (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) and Charles Michael Drain (City University of New York). As part of an NSF radiochemistry-training program between MSKCC and Hunter College of the City University of New York, Travis’s doctoral research spanned both molecular imaging and radiochemistry. He developed methodology for stably attaching radionuclides to nanoparticles with near-term clinical translation for in vivo imaging. Additionally, he researched the interactions of ionizing radiation with nanoparticles that result in visible and high-energy photon generation or attenuation. Travis completed his Ph.D. in 2016 and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Gambhir laboratory at Stanford University.    

Ashwin Ram, MD
Mentor: Michael Snyder

Project Title: Exosome facilitated therapeutic targeting of HAT1 in Ras-mutant cancer

Dr. Ram graduated medical school from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He then completed his residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital where he was awarded the Rangos Award for Cancer Creativity for his proposal harnessing next-gen sequencing and synthetic biology for treatment of metastatic cancers. He pursued additional training in bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology in the Nanosystems Biology Cancer Center (NSBCC) where he used a new drug-discovery platform to target oncogenic K-Ras. His current postdoctoral work at Stanford University School of Medicine is under the guidance of Dr. Michael Snyder, where he is investigating the genetic and epigenetic regulation of cancer using novel nanotechnologies.

Sibu Kuruvilla, PhD
Mentor: Dean Felsher

Project Title: Engineering nanoparticles to overcome barriers to immunotherapy

Dr. Kuruvilla received his BS degree in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before obtaining his PhD in MSE and Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His PhD research focused on creating a nanoparticle drug delivery system that could target and deliver chemotherapeutic agents to tumor tissue. He came to Stanford in 2017 and joined the Cancer TNT program in 2018 under the direction of Dr. Dean Felsher to create antibody-loaded nanoparticles for the treatment of MYC-driven tumors.

Past Trainees

Ryan Davis, PhD
Mentors: Sanjiv Sam Gambhir and Jianghong Rao

Project Title: Surfaced-Enhanced Raman Scattering Nanoparticles for Improved Resection of Non-Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer

Ryan Miller Davis received a Bachelor’s of Science in Physics and Bachelor’s of Arts in Electrical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2007. Following his undergraduate studies, he completed a Master’s of Science degree in Medical Physics at Duke University in 2009 with Mark W. Dewhirst as a research supervisor.  While working with Dr. Dewhirst, Ryan developed temperature-sensitive MRI contrast agents for imaging temperature during thermal therapy of cancer.  He was a Cancer Research Training Award (CRTA) fellow from 2009-2011, which supported his research in the Radiation Biology Branch at the National Cancer Institute. At the NCI, he used stable nitroxide contrast agents to image oxidative stress in cancer with MRI. In 2011, Ryan began his doctoral research in the lab of Warren S. Warren in the Duke University Biomedical Engineering Program, where he developed a method to image the temperature of bone marrow with MRI during thermal therapy of bone metastases.  Ryan completed his Ph.D. in 2015 and is currently a T32-funded postdoctoral research fellow in the laboratory of Sam Gambhir at Stanford University.  His research focuses on the development of antibody-targeted nanoparticles for improved detection and delineation of colorectal and bladder cancers with optical endoscopy.