Lab Members


Robert H. Blelloch

Principal Investigator | [email protected]

Stem cells exist both in the developing embryo and in many organs of the adult organism. Differentiation of these cells is tightly regulated so that their progeny become increasingly specialized and lose the potential to revert or transform into other cell types. This regulation is very important both to maintain organ function and to avoid the possibility of uncontrolled cell growth, the basis of cancer. Our laboratory is interested in determining the molecular mechanisms that direct and stabilize cellular differentiation with a focus on post-transcriptional regulation and epigenetics. The goal is to control the differentiation and de-differentiation of cells in order to regenerate tissues for replacement therapies as well as develop novel means for treating cancer.

Senior Scientists

Cassandra Belair

Researcher | [email protected]

Cassandra is currently a Researcher at UCSF studying the role of microRNAs in prostate cancer progression and their use as diagnostic markers. She began studying different aspects of cancer biology after her graduation from SUNY Plattsburgh by working as a technician at Cornell University in the laboratory of eminent biochemist Dr. Efraim Racker. She studied the earliest steps of bladder carcinogenesis under the mentorship of Dr. Catherine Reznikoff at the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she obtained her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Toxicology. She moved on to a post-doctoral project aimed at understanding the toxicology of dioxins, a prominent pollutant in the Great Lakes waterways, on developing organisms using the zebrafish as a model under the mentorship of Drs. Warren Heideman and Richard Peterson, also at UW Madison. There she discovered the beauty of development through watching the fertilized egg morph into a fully functioning fish in just 3 days. She accepted a position as an instructor/scientist in the HHMI laboratory of Dr. Leonord Zon at Harvard Children’s Hospital, Boston. While in the Zon lab, Cassandra managed the operations of the 5000-tank zebrafish facility and studied liver carcinogenesis using a cell cycle mutant that had been isolated in the lab.

Finally, she moved to UCSF in 2005 as a Researcher within the Blelloch Lab. Within the lab she has many roles but her primary focus is on understanding prostate cancer progression. She established a mouse model to study the roles of microRNAs in prostate cancer by combining a recently published model of prostate cancer, the PB-cre conditional PTEN deletion model with the conditional DGCR8 deletion model established by Robert. Her more recent interests are moving into the area of prognostic biomarkers and learning the bioinformatics tools to uncover serum microRNAs that will add value to the current UCSF nomograms. Cassandra is also working on a collaboration with the Fraser Lab to develop small molecule inhibitors of exosome release.  Outside of the lab Cassandra enjoys the fact that San Francisco has a climate conducive to year-round outdoor activities from hiking, biking and sailing locally to camping, hiking and skiing in the mountains.

Deniz Goekbuget, PhD

Associate Specialist | [email protected]

Deniz grew up in Frankfurt, Germany. He received a Master of Biochemistry from Goethe University Frankfurt, and then obtained his PhD from ETH Zurich where he discovered critical roles of roles of non-coding RNAs in the peripheral nervous system in the Suter lab. In the Blelloch lab, he is focused on how faithful cell cycle progression is coordinated with transcriptional identity at the level of chromatin. Outside lab he enjoys being in the mountains for hiking and skiing or playing golf. Deniz received a research fellowship from the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Postdoctoral Fellows

Huaigeng Xu, MD, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow | [email protected]

Huaigeng Xu joined the Blelloch Lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow in March 2020 to study Cancer immunology and Exosomes. Huaigeng was born in China and grew up in Japan. He obtained his M.D. and Ph.D. in Japan. During his graduate studies at the Center for iPS cells Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University, he was tasked with generating low immunogenicity iPS cells by disrupting HLA genes via CRISPR-Cas9 based genome-editing (Xu et al, Cell Stem Cell, 2019). During this work, he learned iPS cell culture and differentiation to blood cells, CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing, immunology (e.g. T cells, NK cells and immune rejection) and basic mouse experiments. His personal interest is aging, and his ultimate goal in the future is to solve age-related health problems and manage his longevity. He speaks both Japanese and Chinese, and he is willing to interact with a lot of people.

image of Jiuling Yang ,PhD - Post-doctoral FellowJiuling Yang, MD, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow | [email protected]

Jiuling Yang joined the lab as a Post-doctoral Fellow in the Fall of 2019 to study the regulation of the immune response to cancers.  She received her PhD in Pharmacology at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor where she studied small molecule targeted cancer therapy for cancer. Later on, she found her interest in cancer immunology and more specifically, in looking for new target for cancer immunotherapy. Jiuling’s research focuses on understanding the role of PVRL2 and PVR pathways in suppressing anti-tumor immunity. Outside of science, Jiuling is a proud dog mom and she enjoys camping, hiking and watching beautiful sunrises on the beache with her dog. Her other children include ~20 fish in our lunch room, many plants on our roof, and hundreds of mice downstairs in the mouse house.


Graduate Students

Hannah Driks, BS

Graduate Student, BMS | [email protected]

Hannah (she/her/hers) graduated from the University of Michigan (Go Blue), where she worked in various labs in the field of cancer drug discovery. She joined the Blelloch Lab as a BMS graduate student in 2021 to continue cancer research and currently studies how exosomes secreted by cancer cells suppress the immune system. Hannah is an active member of ImmunoX, the immunology initiative at UCSF, and a director of Immunologists for Gender Equity (IgEquity), an organization that promotes gender equity in immunology through outreach and annual events. Outside of the lab, she enjoys distance running, live music, and weekend roadtrips to nearby cities and parks. 


Image of Li Wang - BMS Graduate StudentLi Wang, MS, BS

Graduate Student, BMS | [email protected]

Li obtained his BS and MS degrees in biology from UC San Diego in the sunny Southern California. During his undergraduate and master’s years, Li researched on the molecular mechanisms of cardiomyopathies using genetically engineered mouse models in Ju Chen lab in UCSD Department of Medicine. While remaining deeply interested in and fascinated by the heart, he is amazed by the evolutionary aspect of cancer biology and decided to explore this area in his PhD study. He joined the Blelloch lab as a BMS graduate student in 2022 to study cancer metastasis. Outside of the lab, Li enjoys photography (landscape and more recently cityscape and street), hiking, trying out coffee shops, and reading.

Rachel Jones, BS

Graduate Student, Tetrad |

Rachel joined the Blelloch lab as a Tetrad graduate student in the Fall of 2023.  She is currently defining her research interests as she writes fellowship applications.

Specialist Trainees

Image of Jason Soriano - Junior SpecialistJason Mark Soriano, BS

Junior Specialist, PROPEL scholar |  [email protected]

Jason is a Junior Specialist in the Blelloch Lab and a post-baccalaureate scholar and Advisory Council member in the UCSF PROPEL Program. He completed his undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley where he studied Molecular Environmental Biology and Global Public Health. As an undergraduate student, Jason developed a keen interest in disease biology having conducted research on arboviral disease vectors, including mosquitoes in Moorea, French Polynesia during his semester abroad, and kissing bugs, the vector for Chagas Disease, during his summer in the University of Georgia REU Program. Needless to say, he was bitten by the bug—the research bug that is. It wasn't until the COVID-19 pandemic hit during his last two years of his undergraduate education that he decided to pursue the career path of becoming a physician scientist to combine his interests in basic research, medicine, and public health. In pursuit of these aspirations, Jason joined the Blelloch Lab in 2022 to spend his gap years training under the guidance and mentorship of multiple physician scientists prior to applying to MD-PhD programs. He is primarily focused on cancer immunology and the role of exosomes in disease progression with a particular interest in developing cancer vaccines. When not in the lab, he enjoys running, shooting film photography, consuming coffee, taking care of his houseplants, and watching movies!


Photo of Chisato KameiChisato Kamei, MD

Vsiting Scientist | [email protected]

Chisato is a dermatologist from Japan who recently decided she wants to learn research, especially related to cancer immunotherapies given her clinical interest in melanoma. She joined the Blelloch lab in the fall of 2021 to learn basic techniques relevant to Cancer immunology and improve her English skills. In the March 2022, she also spent a month in CiRA, Kyoto University, Japan, to learn specific iPS cell culturing and differentiation techniques. After learning these skills, she is working in collaboration with Huaigeng and Jason to generate iPS cell-based anti-tumor immunotherapies.