Leonardo Morsut is an assistant professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He holds a joint appointment with the Biomedical Engineering department at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, where he is also director of a new Center for Integrated Electronics and Biological Organisms (CIEBOrg).
Morsut was born and raised in Padova, Italy, and had an early fascination with science in general and embryology in particular. This fascination led him to pursue a broad spectrum of degrees in medical biotechnologies, mathematics and developmental biology.
He received a doctorate in developmental biology from the University of Padova in Italy in 2010. There, he investigated roles of morphogen signaling during early mouse embryogenesis; he also described for the first time the role of YAP/TAZ in mechanotransduction, all in the Stefano Piccolo lab.
In 2012, Morsut movedto Wendell Lim’s lab at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as a postdoctoral scholar funded through EMBO, Human Frontiers Scientific Program and the NIH/NIBIB K99 Pathway to Independence award. During this postdoctoral phase, Leonardo developed a new class of synthetic receptors called Synthetic Notch receptors that have far-reaching implications for cell therapies for cancer, autoimmunity, and regenerative medicine.
Morsut started his own lab in 2017 with the mission of establishing synthetic biology approaches for multicellular mammalian systems. This stems from his interest in complex systems and emergent properties and his desire to develop methods to control tissue formation as a feature that emerges from cells interactions. To learn more about his research, visit morsutlab.usc.edu/research. Morsut views the lab as a property that emerges from the interaction of its components, the scientists, and its environment. Morsut is equally passionate about the humans behind the scientists, and how these two aspects of scientists interplay to inform their life and their work. For this, he is interested in learning more about the studies on human interaction from the social and cognitive sciences.
Leonardo is also a yogi and a student of Yogarupa Rod Stryker, a dimension that gives him lots of joy and stability. For the most part, in his time outside the lab, he is enjoying his family, his wife Sabina and their children Gabriele and Aurora. He sees a lot of parallels between his work as a mentor and as a parent, and will write a very inspirational piece about this when he’s figured it all out, some time in the future.
Between 1999 and 2006, Morsut had a parallel life where he was a professional volleyball player with the Italian National Team.