Sanjay Kumar
Professor of Bioengineering
Department of Bioengineering
(510) 666-3367

Research Expertise and Interest

biomaterials, molecular and cellular bioengineering, stem cells, cancer biology, translational medicine


My research team and I seek to understand and control biophysical communication between cells and their surroundings. In addition to investigating fundamental aspects of this problem, we are especially interested in understanding the role played by cellular mechanobiological signaling in tumor and stem cell biology in the central nervous system. Two important recent directions for our work have been to leverage the tools of synthetic biology to "rewire" cell-environment communication by placing mechanobiological signaling systems under the control of one or more small-molecule inducers and repressors, and to synthesize or fabricate new tissue-mimetic culture platforms for biophysical studies and molecular screening. Finally, we are very interested in developing new materials based on cellular structural networks that may have broader applications in biotechnology and soft materials science.

In addition to my research efforts, I chair the UC Berkeley-UCSF Graduate Program in Bioengineering and serve as Faculty Director of the UC Berkeley-UCSF Master of Translational Medicine Program. In those capacities, I interact extensively with colleagues in the clinical and private sectors who have strong shared interests in the translation of basic discoveries to health and technology applications.

In Research News

cross-section through chicken skin
July 18, 2017

The rubber-like elasticity of skin, which contracts to its original shape after being stretched, is key to the development of regularly spaced hairs and sweat glands during development, according to new research at the University of California, Berkeley.

UC Berkeley’s Sanjay Kumar adapts bioengineering strategies for studies of cancer movement in 3D cell environments.
January 13, 2015

Sanjay Kumar adapts bioengineering strategies for studies in 3D cell environments to reveal how and why cancer cells invade the way they do.

October 14, 2014

UC Berkeley scientists have taken proteins from nerve cells and used them to create a “smart” material that is extremely sensitive to its environment. This marriage of materials science and biology could give birth to a flexible, sensitive coating that is easy and cheap to manufacture in large quantities.

Single invading tumor cell
January 8, 2014

Bioengineering professors Sanjay Kumar and Niren Murthy have been granted a $500,000 research award from the W.M. Keck Foundation for their project, Single Tumor Cell Proteomics for Diagnosis and Prognosis.

June 11, 2012

Tight spaces have the counterintuitive effect of aiding the spread of tumor cells, according to a new study led by UC Berkeley bioengineers. The researchers developed a 3D model to study the biophysical environment factors influencing tumor invasion and found that narrow channels gave cells traction to help them move faster. The findings have implications for certain cancers, including malignant brain tumors, which tend to infiltrate most rapidly along tissue interfaces and confined spaces, such as blood vessels and nerve tracts.

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