Faculty Directory
Josh Leonard

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence


2145 Sheridan Road
Tech E244
Evanston, IL 60208-3109

847-491-7455Email Josh Leonard


Leonard Lab


Center for Synthetic Biology


Chemical and Biological Engineering


PhD Program in Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences


Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA

Management of Technology Certificate, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, CA

B.S. Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

Research Interests

Synthetic biology, gene therapy, computational and experimental systems biology

My research group works at the interface of systems biology and synthetic biology in order to probe and program the function of complex, multicellular systems to develop transformative biotechnologies and enable a new paradigm of design-driven medicine. Using the tools of synthetic biology, biomolecular engineering, computational systems biology, and gene therapy, we develop technologies including programmable cell-based “devices,” immune therapies for cancer and chronic disease, smart vaccines, biosensors for global health applications, and tools for advanced metabolic engineering. By bringing an engineering approach to the investigation, design, and construction of biological systems, the Leonard group is advancing the frontiers of design-driven medicine to address unmet medical needs and create safe, effective, and long-lasting treatment options that improve both quantity and quality of life.


Selected Publications

    1. Younger AKD, Su PY, Shepard AJ, Udani SV, Cybulski TR, Tyo KE, Leonard JN* (2018). Development of novel metabolite-responsive transcription factors via transposon-mediated protein fusion. Protein Engineering, Design, and Selection
    2. Hartfield RM, Schwarz KA, Muldoon KK, Bagheri N, Leonard JN* (2018) Multiplexing engineered receptors for multiparametric evaluation of environmental ligands. ACS Synthetic Biology
    3. Stranford DM, Hung ME, Gargus ES, Shah RN,Leonard JN* (2017) A systematic evaluation of factors affecting extracellular vesicle uptake by breast cancer cells. Tissue Engineering Part A
    4. Schwarz KA, Daringer NM, Dolberg TB, Leonard JN* (2017) Rewiring human cellular input–output using modular extracellular sensors. Nature Chemical Biology. 13 (2): 202-209.
    5. Younger AKD, Dalvie NC, Rottinghaus AG, Leonard JN*. Engineering modular biosensors to confer metabolite-responsive regulation of transcription. ACS Synthetic Biology. 6 (2): 311-325.
    6. Du Lac M, Scarpelli AH, Younger AKD, Bates DG*, Leonard JN* (2016) Predicting the dynamics and heterogeneity of genomic DNA content within bacterial populations across variable growth regimes. ACS Synthetic Biology.
    7. Chuang YC, Hung ME, Cangelose BK, Leonard JN* (2016) Regulation of the IL-10-driven macrophage phenotype under incoherent stimuli. Innate Immunity. 22 (8): 647-657.
    8. Schwarz KA, Leonard JN*. (2016) Engineering cell-based therapies to interface robustly with host physiology. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews. 105(Pt A):55-65.
    9. Hung ME, Leonard JN*. (2016) A platform for actively loading cargo RNA to elucidate limiting steps in EV-mediated delivery. J Extracell Vesicles. 5:31027.
    10. Pitner RA, Scarpelli AH, Leonard JN* (2015). Regulation of bacterial gene expression by protease-alleviated spatial sequestration (PASS). ACS Synthetic Biology. 4 (9): 966-974.
    11. Daringer NM, Schwarz KA, Leonard JN* (2015). Contributions of Unique Intracellular Domains to Switch-Like Biosensing by Toll-like Receptor 4. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 290(14):8764-77.
    12. Hung ME, Leonard JN* (2015). Stabilization of exosome targeting peptides via engineered glycosylation. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 109 (13):8166-72.
    13. Wells DK, Chuang Y, Knapp LM, Brockmann D, Kath WL, Leonard JN* (2015). Spatial and functional heterogeneities shape collective behavior or tumor-immune networks.  PLOS Computational Biology. April 23, 2015. DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004181 
    14. Leonard JN* (2015). The Rise of Mammals. ACS Synthetic Biology. 3 (12):878–879.a
    15. György B, Hung ME, Breakefield XO, Leonard JN* (2014). Therapeutic applications of extracellular vesicles: Clinical promise and open questions. Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology. 55:439-64. PMC4445965.
    16. Daringer NM, Dudek RM, Schwarz KA, Leonard JN* (2014) Modular Extracellular Sensor Architecture for Engineering Mammalian Cell-Based Devices. ACS Synthetic Biology. 3 (12): 892–902. PMID: 24611683 (PMCID not yet available)
    17. Marcus ME, Leonard JN* (2013) Fedexosomes: Engineering Therapeutic Biological Nanoparticles that Truly Deliver. Pharmaceuticals. 6:659-680. PMC3722064