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Joshua Nathaniel Leonard: Faculty Experts

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Joshua Nathaniel Leonard

McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence


Areas of Focus

  • Synthetic biology
  • Cancer immunotherapy
  • Gene therapy
  • Systems biology
  • Computational biology


  • Engineering cell-based therapies for treating chronic disease
  • Design-driven engineering of living systems
  • Engineering nanoscale biological vesicles as therapeutic agents
  • Pioneering mammalian synthetic biology
  • Developing next generation genetic therapy technologies


Leonard received a B.S. from Stanford University in 2000, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2006. Leonard then trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the Experimental Immunology Branch of the National Cancer Institute, and he joined the faculty of Northwestern University in 2008. Leonard’s research group engineers novel biological systems that perform customized, sophisticated functions for applications in biotechnology and medicine. Leonard is an early pioneer in mammalian synthetic biology and employs methods ranging from biomolecular engineering to computation-driven design. His group develops technologies including programmable cell-based “devices” for treating cancer and novel gene therapy platforms based upon bioengineered nanoscale vesicles. Leonard is recipient of an NIH Cancer Research Training Award, the 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award and the Clarence Ver Steeg Graduate Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring. Leonard is actively engaged in the development of national science policy, having testified as an expert witness before the U.S. House of Representatives on “21st Century Biology” and through his role as a council member of the Engineering Biology Research Consortium. He also fosters training and industrial impact as director of both Northwestern’s NIH-funded Biotechnology Training Program (T32) and a graduate cluster in Biotechnology, Systems and Synthetic Biology. Leonard is a founding member of Northwestern’s Center for Synthetic Biology, and he founded and directs Northwestern’s undergraduate synthetic biology team (iGEM).