Angela Koehler appointed faculty director of the Deshpande Center

July 1, 2023

A biotech entrepreneur, Koehler will help faculty and students launch startups and bring new products to market through the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation.

by Mary Beth Gallagher, School of Engineering

Angela Koehler, associate professor of biological engineering, intramural faculty member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, and an institute member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, has been named faculty director of the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, effective July 1.
“Professor Koehler is a truly gifted entrepreneur. Her extensive experience both launching and advising biotechnology companies will be instrumental as she helps many faculty and students bring their groundbreaking technologies from the lab to market,” says Anantha P. Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering and Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
The MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation is an interdepartmental center that empowers MIT students and faculty to make a difference in the world by helping them bring new their innovative technologies from the lab to the marketplace in the form of breakthrough products and new companies. The center was established in 2002 through a gift from philanthropist Guruaj “Desh” Deshpande and his wife, Jaishree. 
“Professor Koehler’s work embodies the center’s focus on helping commercialize products and solutions that can have tremendous impact on the world,” adds Deshpande. “Her commitment to developing strategies to target diseases like cancer, as well as her abilities as an entrepreneur and educator, make her a strong addition to the Deshpande Center’s leadership team.” 
A member of MIT’s faculty since 2014, Koehler and her team at the Koehler Lab use chemical tools to unlock new protein targets that were previously considered “undruggable.” By studying transcriptional dysregulation linked to diseases such as cancer, Koehler is innovating the earliest stages of drug discovery and therapeutics. 
A successful entrepreneur, Koehler co-founded the biotechnology companies Ligon Discovery, 76Bio, and Kronos Bio. She has personal experience with the Deshpande Center having been a grant recipient, and served on its grant selection committee. In 2015, she received a grant from the Deshpande Center to help commercialize her research on undruggable targets. The grant and mentoring she received from the Deshpande Center led to the startup company Kronos Bio in 2017. The company, which develops therapies targeting the dysregulated transcription that causes cancer and other diseases, went public three years later. Koehler also serves on the scientific advisory boards of Nested Therapeutics, Photys Therapeutics, and Vicinitas Therapeutics, and acts as an advisor for Enveda Biosciences, ORIC Pharmaceuticals, and Pfizer. 
A dedicated educator, Koehler previously served as co-director of MIT’s biomedical engineering undergraduate program and on MIT’s Prehealth Advising Committee. She is an advisor to the MIT Biotechnology Group, which supports students interested in becoming future leaders in biotech. She also co-teaches course 15.480 (The Science and Business of Biotechnology) alongside faculty from across MIT. In 2019, she was recognized for her outstanding contributions to education with the MIT Junior Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Koehler has received numerous awards and fellowships in recognition of her substantial research contributions. She was awarded the Ono Pharma Breakthrough Science Award and the AACR-Bayer Innovation and Discovery Award. Koehler previously served as the Karl Van Tassel (1925) Career Development Professor, Merkin Institute Fellow at the Broad Institute, and Genome Technology Young Investigator. 
She earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Reed College and a PhD in chemistry from Harvard University. After receiving her doctoral degree, she served as an institute fellow in the Broad Institute’s Chemical Biology Program and a group leader for the NCI Initiative for Chemical Genetics. In 2014, she joined MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering and the Koch Institute, where she serves as faculty director of the Robert A. Swanson (1969) Biotechnology Center. Koehler is also a founding member at the MIT Center for Precision Cancer Medicine, which focuses on individualized treatments for cancer patients. 
Koehler succeeds Devavrat Shah, Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Institute for Data, Systems and Society, who has served as the faculty director of the Deshpande Center since February 2022.