Jessica Stark, PhD

headshot of Prof. Stark


Underwood-Prescott Career Development Professor


Understanding and engineering the roles of cell-surface sugars in the immune system
Developing new immunotherapy modalities
Building platforms for systems immunology


Assistant Professor, MIT Department of Chemical Engineering
Intramural Member, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT


Prof. Jessica Stark received her B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Cornell University. After graduation, she worked at Genentech, Inc. in process development and research and development roles. Jessica then went on to complete her Ph.D. in Chemical and Biological Engineering with Prof. Michael Jewett at Northwestern University. Here, she developed cell-free technologies for protein therapeutic and vaccine production that promise to enable portable and personalized medicine. As a postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Carolyn Bertozzi at Stanford University, Jessica’s work focused on identifying and targeting glycans that act as immune checkpoints for next-generation cancer immunotherapy. Jessica will join the faculty at MIT as an Assistant Professor in the departments of Biological and Chemical Engineering and as an intramural member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in Jan 2024. The Stark Lab will develop biological technologies to realize the largely untapped potential of glycans for immunological discovery and immunotherapy.


New paradigms to harness the immune system are necessary to address unmet needs in human health. Sugars called glycans coat the surface of every cell and, as a result, influence nearly every immunological process. However, our ability to identify which glycans control immune responses and design therapies to target them remains limited. Our group is pioneering approaches to understand and engineer the roles of glycans in the immune system in order to 1) fill key knowledge gaps in immunobiology and 2) develop next-generation immunotherapies. Our work is highly interdisciplinary, integrating approaches from molecular, synthetic, and systems biology, immunology, and biological engineering. We are interested in fundamental questions and therapeutic applications in multiple contexts, including cancer, autoimmunity, and infection.

Our lab is further committed to enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM through mentoring, outreach, and educational innovation. To support this work, we co-developed and commercialized BioBits® educational kits that promise to increase access to high-quality biology education by facilitating hands-on learning.

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