To Leverage Scientific Innovation and Discovery to Cure Children’s Heart Disease

Latest News

February 2024

New publication out in Nature from the Engreitz Lab and collaborators at the Broad Institute/Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This study developed a Variant-to-Gene-to-Program (V2G2P) to map how genetic variants affect gene expression and how genes impact biological function, and used this approach to uncover mechanisms underlying coronary artery disease risk. Read more in the Broad/BWH press release here

Dr. Casey Gifford was selected as a member of Stanford MCHRI's Inaugural Team Science and Translational Medicine Faculty Development Cohort. She will be leading a project focused on “Identifying gene regulatory networks involved in congenital heart disease amenable to therapeutic intervention”.

January 2024 

Two BASE postdocs were awarded the American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship! Congratulations to Dr. Megha Agarwal, postdoc in the Gifford Lab, who was selected for her work on “Understanding left ventricular non-compaction through myocardial-endocardial crosstalk using human cardiac organoid”, and to Dr. Chongyang Zhang, postdoc in the Rabinovitch Lab, studying the “Mechanism underlying pulmonary arterial hypertension induced by reduced SOX17 in congenital heart disease”.

December 2023

Warm welcome to the BASE Program’s newest faculty recruit: Dr. Xiaojie Qiu, who also joined the Departments of Genetics and Computer Science. His laboratory will leverage his unique background in single-cell genomics, mathematical modeling, and machine learning to bridge the gap between “big data” from single-cell/spatial genomics and quantitative/predictive modeling in order to address fundamental questions in mammalian cell fate transitions, especially those of heart evolution, development, and disease. Check out more on his lab website here.

BASE is honoring Betty Irene Moore, who passed away on December 12, 2023. Her transformative donation to the Lucile Packard Foundation in 2017 established the Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center and enabled the launch of our Basic Science and Engineering (BASE) Program to find a cure for children's heart disease through discovery and innovation. This generous donation led to the recruitment and support of our four world-class scientists currently building an interdisciplinary program in bioengineering, stem cell biology, genetics and computer science. Read more about her legacy here.

BASE Spotlight: Michael Montgomery, PhD Student from the Engreitz Lab

What is your role?

I am a 4th year PhD Candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Engreitz lab.

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

I really enjoy working as part of dynamic teams in highly collaborative, multi-lab projects. I have made more friends, learned more things, and done more impactful work thanks to the collaborative nature of BASE and the Department of Genetics. I was a student-athlete in college and am a firm believer that a strong, dedicated team with a common goal will always be successful.

Where were you before you came to Stanford?

I obtained a B.S. in Microbiology from California State University, Long Beach and spent three years as a researcher in the Seibold lab at National Jewish Health in Denver, CO. My work in the Seibold Lab included investigating the effects of air pollution on the asthmatic lung and deploying gene-editing methods to identify genes underlying differentiation of lung cell types.

Share a bit about one of your research projects/experiences (past or current):

I develop and apply high-throughput technologies to study the regulatory DNA sequences that control cell type-specific gene expression. I use these technologies, in combination with sequence-based predictive models of gene regulation, to systematically dissect and reprogram gene expression. I often employ constructionist approaches in my work, such as by using complex, rationally designed sequence edits to engineer synthetic regulatory syntax into endogenous DNA. Through this work, we have learned a lot of interesting things about the context-specificity, programmability and responsiveness of regulatory DNA.

Who is a scientist that inspires you, and why?

My sister, Dr. Sarah Montgomery! She is the first person in my family to pursue a career in science (Neuroscience) and I was so inspired by her that I followed in her footsteps. She is brilliant, ambitious, and has always been a huge source of support and advice throughout my career.

What are your favorite activities outside of work?

Backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, spending time at the dog park, skateboarding and karaoke!

What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?

I hope to have founded a biotechnology company that uses our CRISPR-based technologies as platforms to engineer new gene therapy approaches that quantitatively tune cell type-specific gene expression. Through this, I hope to find cures for rare genetic diseases that are not amenable to currently available gene therapies, such as those caused by haploinsufficiency.