About Michael Birnbaum's Work
T cell-based immunotherapies have begun to transform how we treat cancer, but are only sometimes effective and can cause serious adverse events. Birnbaum’s research group combines mechanistic immunology and protein engineering with the goal of engineering the immune system. They develop approaches to create safer, more effective cancer immunotherapies. Their emphasis is twofold. First, they aim to understand what is recognized in a successful immune response and retarget T cells to effective antigens. Second, they are creating new protein engineering methods able to select for signaling activity to create novel chimeric antigen receptors able to induce any potential T cell effector program of interest. While their initial emphases focus on cancer, they see their approach as an exciting path forward to retarget and reprogram immunity in infectious disease and autoimmunity, and also hope to adapt these ideas to more generally manipulate cellular recognition and function.