Kai Kessenbrock

Kai received his Diploma degree in Molecular Biology from the University of Heidelberg and his Ph.D. from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology and LMU Munich in Germany. He did his postdoc in Dr. Zena Werb’s lab at the University of California, San Francisco. Kai’s work is focused on how cells communicate and integrate signals from their local microenvironment during normal tissue homeostasis and cancer. His interest in microenvironmental control pathways grew out of his graduate work, where he studied the function of neutrophil serine proteases in acute inflammatory responses (Kessenbrock et al, Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2008) and in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases (Kessenbrock et al, Nature Medicine, 2009). During his postdoc he expanded his expertise to the role of matrix metalloproteinases in the tumor microenvironment (Kessenbrock et al, Cell, 2010) and as regulators of breast epithelial stem cells through modulation of the Wnt signaling pathway (Kessenbrock et al, Cell Stem Cell, 2013). His current research investigates mechanisms of cellular communication in the mammary stem cell niche and the spectrum of heterogeneity within the breast epithelium using systems-level analyses in single cell resolution. These projects will further our understanding of the systematic changes during early tumorigenesis with the ultimate goal to identify biomarkers for early detection as well as novel therapeutic strategies to improve disease outcome for breast cancer patients.


University of California, San Francisco
Postdoctoral Fellow – Mentors: Zena Werb and Andrei Goga
Project: Microenvironmental Control of Tissue Homeostasis and Cancer

Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology
Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, 2009
Dissertation: Proteolytic Regulators of Inflammation

University of Heidelberg, Germany
Diploma in Molecular Biology, 2004



American Cancer Society Research Scholar, 2019

NIH-Pathway to Independence (K99/R00), National Cancer Institute, 2014

NIH-“Earl Stadtman Investigators“ Program Finalist, 2014

Hans Hench Prize for Clinical Immunology, Leipzig, Germany, 2010

Avrion Mitchison Prize from the Schering Foundation, Berlin, Germany, 2009

Susan G. Komen for the Cure Postdoctoral Fellow, 2009

Outstanding Paper Award from the Wekerle Foundation, 2009

Feodor Lynen Research Fellow, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, 2008

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