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Research Areas

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Uncovering the molecular basis of health and disease

Molecules are central to human health and disease. By uncovering how individual molecules behave in the body, and how those behaviors change with disease, Sarafan ChEM-H researchers are leading a revolution in human health research and medical care.


The microbes that live in, on, and around us are inextricably linked to human health. The researchers at ChEM-H are developing tools to help us understand--and harness--the power of the microbiome. This research could lead to new ways of treating diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Crohn's disease

Cancer therapeutics

ChEM-H researchers are pioneering new ways of understanding and treating cancer. They are working to uncover and manipulate the mechanisms that drive tumor progression and drug resistance. Interdisciplinary teams led by ChEM-H faculty members are also leading breakthrough in understanding the complex connections among cancer, metabolism, and the microbiome.

Cell biology

From understanding how cells encode and decode genetic instructions to uncovering the molecules involved in cellular replication, ChEM-H scientists are discovering the mechanisms that underpin life. They are developing tools to pull apart and track or those processes to learn more about health and disease.


In breaking down the food we eat, our cells produce a huge number of small molecules called metabolites, molecules that the cell puts to work, in building up new pieces of the cell and in sending messages between cells. By identifying these metabolites and learning how, when, where, and why they are made, ChEM-H researchers are uncovering the links between metabolism and health and discovering new ways to treat metabolic diseases like diabetes and lysosomal storage diseases.

Vaccines and the immune system

Our immune cells are constantly patrolling our bodies to find signs of infection or disease. They maintain a balance between eliminating dangerous cells and protecting healthy ones through a complex series of molecular and physical triggers. ChEM-H faculty are untangling those triggers and developing new tools to study and manipulate the immune system to develop new vaccines and therapeutics. 

Cell engineering

Cells are complex and highly specialized machines, capable of performing and coordinating all the small tasks that together allow organisms to live and grow. By finding new ways of manipulating those pathways, ChEM-H researchers are developing new ways of studying and treating diseases.

Antibiotics and infectious diseases

Drug resistance and emerging infectious diseases are among the biggest global health challenges facing society. By uncovering the molecules involved in how pathogens elicit and evade immune responses, and discovering the complex relationships between our immune system and the human microbiome, ChEM-H scientists are pioneering a new generation of anti-infectives.