Chad Cowan, Ph.D.

Chad Cowan, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Chad Cowan at the Center for Life Sciences in Boston

Chad Cowan developed technology designed to protect cells from immune attacks, which can be used to genetically modify and differentiate stem cells to create cell therapies that are cloaked from the immune system.

The Cowan lab currently focuses on regenerative medicine, in which a patient's own cells can be genetically cured or made resistant to disease and then transplanted back into the body as a durable treatment. They also seek to elucidate the molecular underpinnings of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and coronary artery disease (CAD).

Metabolic diseases such as T2DM and CAD are responsible for an increasingly large burden of morbidity and mortality worldwide, afflicting hundreds of millions of people. The development of new and effective treatments for these diseases requires the identification and validation in humans of novel disease mechanisms. Recent advances in human genetics have begun to explicate the heritable susceptibility to metabolic diseases; to date, genome-wide association studies in humans have identified more than 30 chromosomal loci strongly linked to T2DM, 95 loci to blood lipid levels, and 25 loci to CAD. Next-generation sequencing studies targeting the “exome” and attempting to directly identify causal genes are underway.

We seek to convert novel genetic findings into the knowledge needed to develop therapies for patients. Our approach to linking human genotypes to human phenotypes has three key steps. The first is to perform human genome editing to introduce disease-associated gene mutations and DNA variants into human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). The second is to differentiate and engineer hPSCs into tissue types relevant to disease in order to develop ex vivo models of disease. The third is to perform functional assays in the genetically modified (and control) differentiated tissues to obtain pathophysiological insights.

Once we have identified disease relevant phenotypes, we plan to use our human cell-based models of disease to perform genetic and drugs screens to develop novel therapeutics.


Chad Cowan received his B.A. and B.S., with honors, from Kansas University in 1995 and 1996. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas Southwestern at Dallas. He subsequently completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Professor Douglas Melton at Harvard University. Cowan was a scientific founder of CRISPR Therapeutics AG and chief scientific officer at Sana Biotechnology Inc.

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