Jerzy Szablowski works on technologies to control and monitor the brain with molecular precision. He developed contrast agents for MRI imaging, therapeutics that can be programmed to target different diseases, methods of noninvasive control of specific neural circuits in living organisms, and synthetic serum markers that can monitor brain activity with a simple blood test. In the Laboratory for Noninvasive Neuroengineering, he continues to innovate in developing methodologies for controlling and monitoring cells in one of the most complex systems in nature – the mammalian brain.
Prior to joining Rice, Szablowski received his B.S. from MIT in Biological Engineering, where he published three papers on MRI imaging of neuronal activity and bioelectronics. He then earned his Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) working in the field of molecular recognition and bioorganic chemistry in the laboratory of Peter Dervan, where he focused on the development of new small-molecule therapeutics for oncology that relied on sequence-specific binding to DNA. His postdoctoral work in Chemical Engineering at Caltech in Mikhail Shapiro’s lab led to the development of Acoustically Targeted Chemogenetics (ATAC), the first fully noninvasive neuromodulation method that also allows for control of neuronal cell populations with spatial, cell-type, molecular, and temporal precision.
Szablowski is a 2021 Packard Fellow, NARSAD Young Investigator, as well as recipient of the Bauer fellowship for graduate studies, received 3rd place worldwide in the iGEM Synthetic Biology competition (synthetic standard prize, best new application, best measurement), and received the BMES J&J Prize for excellence in biomedical research, and a Rice University Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor (2020). He has received funding from multiple sources, including David and Lucille Packard Foundation, Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease Research, DARPA, The G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers foundation, The Welch Foundation, John S. Dunn Foundation, and others.
Neuroscience research and discovery of new neurotherapeutics is a slow process due to the high complexity of mammalian nervous systems. To more rapidly decode this complexity, we develop need new methods of controlling and monitoring the brain. We focus on noninvasive and clinically-compatible methods, to enable discovery of disease mechanisms in real human patients as opposed to artificial animal models. Using our tools we design scalable deployable therapies that can be easily adapted to multiple disorders, to reduce the cost and increase the pace of drug development.
In our lab we have developed or are actively developing noninvasive neuromodulation technologies, the first ‘blood test’ for brain activity with synthetic serum markers (Released Markers of Activity), new engineered viral vectors, site-specific therapeutics that act on selected brain regions, and new protein-engineered tools to control neural activity or treat disease.