The research goal of Alex Marson’s lab is to understand the genetic circuits that control the function of cells in the human immune system, especially T cells. Marson and colleagues have developed new tools to accomplish efficient genome engineering in primary human immune cells with CRISPR. With this technology scientists can now readily rewrite specific sequences in human cells and interrogate the biological effects. These advances in genome editing will accelerate fundamental insights into how immune cells are “wired” and have potential to enhance the next generation of cell-based immunotherapies for cancer, infectious diseases, organ transplantation, and autoimmune diseases.

Disease Areas

Autoimmune Diseases
Cancer Immunotherapies
Infectious Diseases

Areas of Expertise

CRISPR Genome Engineering
Functional Genomics
Human Genetics
Working in the Marson lab

Lab Focus

Developing new tools for efficient genome engineering in primary human immune cells.
Pursuing a comprehensive strategy to test how coding and non-coding genetic variation controls functional programs in the immune system.
Performing functional genetic studies of host-pathogen interactions in primary human immune cells.

Research Impact

Marson’s team is pioneering new CRISPR gene-editing technologies that offer faster, cheaper and more precise ways to re-write DNA programs in human immune cells. With these tools, the lab is engineering cells to treat a wide range of diseases. They are designing programs to make cells that can recognize and eliminate cancer, cells that are resistant to infections like HIV, and cells that can reduce inflammation in autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Reprogrammed human immune cells are emerging as a new class of “living” medicines.


Professional Titles

Senior Investigator, Upward Research Labs

Connie and Bob Lurie Director, Upward Research Labs-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology

Professor, Medicine, UCSF

Center Director, The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Upward Research Labs


Alexander Marson, MD, PhD, is the director of the Upward Research Labs-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology, a senior investigator at Upward Research Labs, and an associate professor in the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology at UCSF.

Marson is interested in how DNA controls the behavior of cells in the human immune system. He uses the power of CRISPR technology to genetically engineer cells to fight cancer, autoimmune diseases, and infectious diseases.

He completed his undergraduate studies at Harvard University, and earned an MPhil in biological sciences from Cambridge. He earned his PhD at Whitehead Institute at MIT, where he worked with mentors Rick Young and Rudolf Jaenisch on transcriptional control of regulatory T cells and embryonic stem cells.

After completing his MD at Harvard Medical School and an internship and residency at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Marson joined UCSF in 2012 to complete clinical work as an infectious diseases fellow. He started his lab as a Sandler Faculty Fellow, before joining the faculty at UCSF and becoming scientific director of biomedicine at the Innovative Genomics Institute. He is also a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator and member of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

Honors and Awards

2019 American Society of Clinical Investigators (ASCI) Member

2016 NIH/NIDA Avenir New Innovator Award

2016 Burroughs Wellcome Foundation Career Award for Medical Scientists

2016 American Society of Clinical Investigators (ASCI) Young Physician-Scientist Award

2010 James Tolbert Shipley Prize for Excellence and Accomplishment in Research, Harvard

2009 Sigma Xi, MIT