Harris Wang

Harris Wang


Associate Professor, Department of Systems Biology


Department of Systems Biology
Department of Pathology and Cell Biology
JP Sulzberger Columbia Genome Center
Center for Cancer Systems Therapeutics


(212) 305-1697

Harris Wang is as an Associate Professor in the Department of Systems Biology and Department of Pathology and Cell Biology. His research focuses on understanding the evolution of the ecosystems that develop within heterogeneous microbial communities. Using approaches from genome engineering, DNA synthesis, and next-generation sequencing, he studies how genomes in microbial populations form, maintain themselves, and change over time, both within and across microbial communities. His goal is to use synthetic biology approaches to engineer ecologies of microbial populations, such as those found in the gut and elsewhere in the human body, in ways that could improve human health.

Dr. Wang earned his BS in physics and applied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He completed his PhD in biophysics at Harvard University, where, as a graduate student in George Church’s laboratory, he developed a technique called Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering (MAGE). This approach made it possible to produce synthetic organisms with novel properties, and to accelerate the process of directed evolution of gene networks and genomes. Most recently, he was a Wyss Technology Development Fellow and member of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard University.

Dr. Wang has been recognized as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow, Grand Prize winner in the 2009 Collegiate Inventors Competition, and a recipient of a National Institutes of Health Early Independence Award. Forbes magazine also named him among its “30 Under 30” in science.

More News


Harris Wang, PhD, receives grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineerin
Harris Wang, PhD, and Samuel Sternberg, PhD, Systems Biology: $2,665,170 over four years from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering for “A high-performance and versatile technology for precision microbiome engineering.”
Personalized Gene Delivery to the Gut
A team of researchers, led by Dr. Harris Wang, has engineered bacteria to benefit and improve the overall health of our gut microbiome. In a proof-of-concept paper published in Nature Methods, the researchers demonstrate MAGIC, a gene delivery system that ‘hacks’ the gut microbiome to perform any desired genetic function, from harvesting energy from food and protecting against pathogen invasion to bolstering anti-inflammatory properties and regulating immune responses.
Designer Proteins Come with Built-In Safeguards
By merging two genes into a single DNA sequence, Columbia University synthetic biologists have created a method that could prevent human-engineered proteins from spreading into the wild, as well as stabilize synthetic proteins so they don’t change over time. The work, recently published in Science, was developed by Harris Wang, PhD, assistant professor of systems biology, with graduate student, Tomasz Blazejewski and postdoctoral scientist, Hsing-I Ho, PhD. Read more about their new technique, CAMEOS, which creates a single DNA sequence containing two genes that encode two separate proteins.
Sampling Neighborhoods of the Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome–composed of hundreds of different species of bacteria–is a complex community and a challenge for scientists to unravel. One specific challenge is the spatial distribution of different microbes, which are not evenly distributed throughout the gut. A new method developed by the lab of Dr. Harris Wang should help scientists locate and characterize these neighborhoods, which could shed light on how microbes influence the health of their hosts.
The Wang Lab Wins DARPA Grant to Boost the Body’s Resilience to Radiation
Harris Wang, PhD, assistant professor of systems biology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, is leading a team of experts in radiation research, CRISPR-Cas technologies, and drug delivery on an innovative new project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The up to $9.5M project focuses on pursuing a therapy to protect the body from the effects of high-dose ionizing radiation, and is part of DARPA's initiative to fund research into new strategies to combat public health and national security threats.