- Scholarship in 2022 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
About Thomas Cheng’s Work
Thomas Cheng’s field of study includes immunology, biotechnology, and chemical engineering. He aims to develop technologies to disease pathogenesis in complex diseases, such as the understanding of host-microbial crosstalk and aberrant cell circuitry in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) to uncover biomarkers of this complex and debilitating disease. He hopes to translate basic discoveries into accessible therapeutics.
Cheng will integrate emerging technologies such as single-cell and spatial transcriptomics techniques for a holistic understanding into the tissue remodelling commonly observed in IBD, such as fibrosis in Crohn's Disease. Knowledge gained and hypotheses generated will inform the creation of a high-fidelity, in-vitro model for IBD to enable precision and personalized medicine for patients and serve as a pre-clinical model for drug development.
Cheng’s hypothesis is that the inclusion of stromal compartment, with gut microbiome and immune cells co-culture with intestinal organoid systems, would allow researchers to model intestinal homeostasis and disease with a reductionist yet physiologically relevant approach. This will enable a causal understanding of the aberrant myeloid-stromal crosstalk and the contribution of bioactive microbial gene products and metabolites in ameliorating or aggravating disease, consequently the discovery of biomarkers for disease severity and treatment response stratification. This could open opportunities to use a similar approach for complex conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and Autism Spectrum Disorder, both of which are increasingly understood to be linked to the disruption of gut microbiome.
Thomas Cheng is doing a PhD in Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP) at the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology. He earned his MEng in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London and gained research experience from the Heng and the Chen Lab. During his exchange year at MIT, he was an undergraduate researcher at the Shalek Lab and the Smillie Lab. He has previously been awarded an Associate Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy, the Procter and Gamble Prize, and the Institution of Chemical Engineers Books Prize.