Cassian Yee, M.D.
Professor, Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology
Professor, Department of Immunology
Director, Solid Tumor Cell Therapy
Co-Director, Adoptive Cellular Therapy Platform
Scientific Director, Cell Therapy Manufacturing Facility
Dr. Yee is Professor in the Departments of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Immunology, Co-Director of the Adoptive Cellular Therapy Platform and Director of Solid Tumor Cell Therapy at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. He received his medical training in Canada, residency at Stanford and fellowship at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigators, recipient of Clinical Translational Scientist Award from Burroughs Wellcome Fund, CPRIT Clinical Investigator award, co-Leader of the Stand Up to Cancer-American Association for Cancer Research/Cancer Research Institute Immunotherapy Dream Team and Member of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.
Over the last 20+ years, Dr. Yee has pioneered a form of ACT, known as Endogenous T Cell (ETC) therapy, using peripheral blood to generate antigen-specific memory T cells for the treatment of patients with cancer. His lab has performed several seminal first-in-human studies using a well-defined, uniform population of ex vivo expanded antigen-specific T cells to delineate the requirements for effective immune-based therapies. He is corresponding or lead author in more than 80 publications, many in top-tier journals including The New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Science, Science Immunology, Science Translational Medicine, Nature Medicine, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of Experimental Medicine, Gastroenterology and Cancer Immunology Research. He holds more than 15 worldwide patents on ex vivo generation of antigen specific T cells, memory reprogramming and antigen discovery and seeks to extend immunotherapy-based cancer treatments globally. His work converges multidisciplinary and collaborative approaches in bioengineering, metabolism, molecular immunology and cellular biology to develop effective immunotherapy strategies and adoptive cellular therapy, in particular, as a treatment modality for patients with malignant diseases.
Junmei Wang, Ph.D.
Junmei received her Ph.D. degree in Immunology from Columbia University in the city of New York in 2010 and joined the Yee lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2014. Her research focuses on elucidating the mechanisms of IL-21-promoted human memory CTL differentiation and exploring strategies to improve the efficacy of adoptive T cell therapy. Outside work, Junmei enjoys walking and spending time with her family.
Shailbala Singh, Ph.D.
Shail completed her B.V.Sc (DVM equivalent) from India in 2003 and received her Ph.D. in Veterinary Microbiology from Texas A&M University in 2009. Her doctoral research focused on characterizing the response of avian memory T lymphocytes to Avian Influenza Virus. She joined MD Anderson Cancer Center as a post-doctoral fellow and conducted research in mucosal immunity and investigated prophylactic and therapeutic vaccination approaches to target viral and bacterial mucosal pathogens such as HIV, HPV and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. She joined the Yee Lab in 2016 where she established the immune-monitoring and mouse xenograft model program. Currently, Shail functions as a staff scientist and laboratory manager for the Yee Lab. She leads several strategic collaborations in the Yee Lab with both academic and industry partners. She also manages the operations of the Yee Lab and is actively involved in the training of lab personnel. Shail’s non work related interests include exploring microbreweries, volunteering and occasional baking.
Ke Pan, Ph.D.
Sr. Research Scientist
Dr. Ke Pan received his Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from South China Agriculture University in 2006. He finished his Post Doc training in Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center in 2008. He became Instructor and Assistant professor in Sun-Yat-sen University Cancer Center until 2014. In 2014, He moved to UT MD Anderson Cancer Center and joined Dr. Cassian Yee’s lab. His current research project focuses on tumor antigen MHC/peptide identification, T cell generation with ETC workflow, as well as TCR-T development for the cancer patient treatment. Outside work, Ke enjoys artist writing, music and traveling with his family.
Yulun Chiu, Ph.D.
Sr. Computational Scientist
Yulun received his Ph.D. degree from University of Georgia in 2015 and joined MD Anderson Cancer Center as bioinformatician. His current research project focuses on epitope discovery and identification by using mass spectrometry and multi-omics approach. In his spare time, Yulun enjoys spending time with his family and traveling.
Yongming Xue, Ph.D.
Yongming received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Houston, Texas in 2018, where he studied as a Center for Cancer Epigenetics Ph.D. Scholar and discovered a novel family of histone reader domain involved in lung cancer maintenance. He joined the Yee Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow in 2019. His current research focuses on improving the intrinsic properties of T cells by engineering pathways and epigenetic modulation, in order to enhance the efficacy of adoptive therapies. He enjoys traveling and history.
Kapil Saxena, M.D.
Kapil received his MD from Baylor College of Medicine in 2016, during which time he worked on novel models of enteric viral infection. After completing residency in internal medicine at UCSF, he returned to Houston to pursue fellowship in hematology/oncology at MD Anderson. He joined the Yee laboratory in 2020 and is focusing on endogenous T cell therapy applications for acute leukemias. He used to be an avid rock climber until he came back to Houston in 2019 and developed a fear of heights.
Rishi Surana, M.D., Ph.D.
Rishi received his B.S. degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Georgetown University. His graduate school studies focused on the role of IL-4 in the tumor microenvironment and its impact on the therapeutic efficacy of tumor targeted antibody therapy. He completed his internal medicine residency at Oregon Health and Science University and is currently a hematology/oncology fellow at MD Anderson. He joined the Yee lab in in 2021 and is working to improve the clinical efficacy of adoptive T-cell therapies in part by reprograming T-cells to adopt a memory-like phenotype. Outside work, Rishi enjoys learning how to garden and spending time outdoors.
Priscilla Ortiz, B.S.
Research Assistant II
Priscilla graduated from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas with a B.S. in Biology and minor in Criminal Justice. She joined the Yee lab in 2015 as a Research Assistant helping on various projects, handling logistics and maintaining lab supplies. Her expertise lies in generating antigen specific T-cells and flow cytometry. Currently, Priscilla is taking part in a cross-disciplinary epidemiological study of COVID-19 immunity of MD Anderson employees. In her free time Priscilla enjoys hiking, wilderness backpacking and landscape photography.
Roy Mulpur, M.S.
Research Assistant II
Roy graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a B.S. degree in biomedical sciences and an M.S. degree in biotechnology. Roy is interested in investigating the genetic and epigenetic regulation of lymphocyte differentiation, particularly how this information can be integrated into improving cell-based therapies. Roy also enjoys playing badminton, racquetball, fishing and cooking different cuisines from around the world.
Farah Hasan, Ph.D.
Graduate Research Assistant – GSBS
Farah joined the Yee Lab as a Ph.D. student in 2016, after previously working in the Vaccine and Cell Therapy Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Nina Bhardwaj. She received her Ph.D. in Immunology from the MD Anderson Cancer Center UT Health GSBS in 2021. Her doctoral research studied the effects of hypoxia and TGF-β on human CD8 T-cell differentiation and identified hypoxia as an environmental cue for the human tissue-resident memory T-cell differentiation program.
Yating Li, B.S.
Graduate Research Assistant – GSGS
Yating received her bachelor’s degree of Science from National University of Singapore in 2016. She joined the Yee lab as a Master student in 2018 and continued as a Ph.D. student in 2020. Her research project focuses on the antigen presentation by dendritic cells and aims at exploring novel strategies to improve T cell priming. Outside lab, she is a proud fur mom with a toy poodle named ‘Noodle’.
Paul Hung, B.S.
Graduate Research Asst – GSBS
Paul received his B.S. degree in Animal Science and Technology from the National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan in 2017. Prior to joining GSBS in 2019, he worked at the Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan as a research assistant where he generated therapeutic monoclonal antibodies targeting solid tumor antigens through phage-displayed technique. Currently, Paul is a graduate student in Yee Lab and focuses on adoptive cell therapy and the understanding the interaction between immune system and tumor cells in order to improve T cell therapy. During his leisure time, Paul enjoys coffee brewing, jogging and traveling.
Cell Therapy Manufacturing Members
Ivy Lai, B.S.
Biologics Manufacturing Manager
Ivy graduated from the University of Washington (Seattle, WA) with a B.S. degree in Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Biology. She joined the Yee Lab in 2007 as a Clinical Cell Therapy Technician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center where she took part in the first clinical cell sort of antigen specific T cells. She moved to Houston in 2013 and started her role as Lab Manager of the Yee lab where she led the lab formation after relocation from FHCRC; she manages the daily clinical and research operations. Ivy is knowledgeable in cGLP, cGMP and cGTP rules and regulations as well as standards per FDA guidelines set up by FACT, CAP and CLIA. Currently, Ivy has transitioned to the role of Biologics Manufacturing Manager in the Department of Biologics Development, where she will manage the production of clinical products not only for the Yee lab but for new collaborations within MD Anderson and Biotech companies specializing in T cell therapy. During her free time, Ivy manages the Houston Seahawks Fans group and is a huge foodie.
Macrina Melendrez, B.S.
Biologics Manufacturing Assoc III
Macrina received her B.S. degree from The University of Houston in 2013 and joined MD Anderson in February 2014 as a Tissue Procurement Specialist. In 2015 she transferred over to the Yee Lab as a Clinical Cell Therapy Technician working with different clinical trials using cell therapy to treat different types of cancer. Macrina’s main interest beyond work is running and she recently picked up photography as a hobby.
Rebecca Shaw, B.S.
Biologics Manufacturing Assoc III
Rebecca received her B.S. degree in Bioengineering from Rice University in 2016. Later that year, she joined the Yee Lab as a Clinical Cell Therapy Associate where she worked on generating antigen-specific T cells in support of Endogenous T Cell Therapy based clinical trials. In 2020, she transferred to the Biologics Development platform within MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division to continue working on ETC and other types of biologic therapies. Outside work, Rebecca enjoys rock climbing and traveling to national parks to go hiking and camping.
Erica Lawson, B.S.
Biologics Manufacturing Associate II
Erica received her B.S. from Texas State University in 2010. She worked as a Research Assistant at MD Anderson in the Cancer Biology Department from 2010-2015. She began in Dr. Isaiah Fidler’s Metastasis Research Laboratory studying the biology and therapy of brain cancer metastasis before joining Dr. Raghu Kalluri’s Laboratory and researching the impact of fibrosis and tumor microenvironment contributions on cancer progression and metastasis. In 2015, she joined Dr. Berislav Zlokovic’s Neuroscience Laboratory of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the University of Southern California. At USC, she developed a hiPSC-derived brain-on-a-chip microfluidic model of the blood-brain barrier to study the influence of rare AD genetic mutations on BBB dysfunction. She returned to Houston and joined Dr. Cassian Yee’s team in 2020 as a Clinical Cell Therapy Associate employing his unique adoptive cellular therapy method to manufacture T cells for immunotherapy. She is now a part of the Cell Therapy Manufacturing Platform of the Biologics Development Division. On the weekends, Erica enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors with her family.