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V Foundation Scholar • UNC Simmons Scholar • Assistant Professor 

UNC Lineberger Cancer Center, Department of Genetics, UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine

Hector L. Franco, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

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Dr. Franco has a long-standing interest in gene regulation, particularly as it pertains to cancer. He is interested in learning how the human genome is organized and how regulatory information is encoded into our DNA, so that we can better understand what goes wrong in diseases such as cancer. 

Dr. Franco was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He completed a bachelors degree in Molecular Biology at Florida Tech while on an athletic scholarship as member of the university's soccer team. He returned home to complete his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Genetics at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine. For his thesis, Dr. Franco studied the roles of the Twist family of transcription factors in developmental diseases. Following his Ph.D., Dr. Franco completed his postdoctoral training in Genomics in the laboratory of Dr. W. Lee Kraus at UT Southwestern Medical Center. There he gained expertise in next-generation sequencing methodologies combined with computational analyses to study mechanisms of gene expression in cancer. His postdoctoral work was funded by the American Cancer Society and a K99/R00 grant from the National Cancer Institute.   

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Daniela Miteva

Grants Administration

Daniela is an integral member of the Franco lab and is in charge of  facilitating grant submission and management operations for the lab. She also contributes extensively to the broader research mission of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.  


Kamila Wisniewska

Lab Manager
& Research Associate

Kamila is in charge of the day to day operations of the lab and handles tumor procurement and processing. She also leads the single cell genomics projects in the lab. Kamila obtained her B.S. in Molecular Biology from Loyola University Chicago. In her free time she enjoys training for powerlifting competitions, traveling, and finding new places to hike.  


Caitlin King

Research Technician

Caitlin collaborates with various Franco lab team members to conduct experiments related to cancer endpoints such as proliferation and metastasis of cancer cells. She also assists with our CRISPR-related experiments. Caitlin obtained her bachelors degree from Coastal Carolina University and a Masters degree from NC State.

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Michael W. Lewis, Ph.D.

ACS Postdoctoral Fellow

Mike obtained his PhD in Genetics at the University of Florida College of Medicine where he focused on mechanisms of epigenetic imprinting during mammalian development. In the Franco Lab, he is currently funded by an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship, and leads projects related to non-coding enhancer RNAs and their roles in gene regulation in cancer. 


Shen Li, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Shen obtained his PhD in Molecular Biology at the University of South Carolina where he focused on mechanisms of homologous recombination. In the Franco Lab, he is using his expertise in genetic engineering to generate mutations in pioneer transcription factors, using CRISPR/Cas9 methodologies, to study their functions in cancer. In his spare time he enjoys hiking, jogging and watching thrilling movies. 


Rosemary Plagens, Ph.D.

Rosemary obtained her PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from Florida Tech where she focused on the effects of chronic stress on gene expression. In the Franco lab, she is funded by the UNC Cancer Epigenetics Training Program and will be using the CRISPR toolkit to study gene expression in breast cancer.


Michael R. Kelly

Graduate Student

Mike is a graduate student in the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Graduate Program.  He joined the Franco Lab in 2018 and is  working on computational methods to identify oncogenic enhancers throughout the cancer genome. In addition, he is interested in defining enhancer-target-gene relationships and the role of copy number alterations in non-coding regions of the genome. 


Matthew J. Regner

Graduate Student

Matt is a graduate student in the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology graduate program. He joined the lab in 2020 and is working on single-cell genomics data analysis. He is specifically interested in statistical approaches to integrate single-cell RNA-seq data with single-cell ATAC-seq data in human tumors. 


Hyunsoo Kim, Ph.D.

Bioinformatics Scientist


Hyunsoo is an experienced computational biologist that leads data analysis and pipeline development for the Franco lab. He also helps curate the Franco lab datasets and serves as a collaborator for many projects.



Raul Mendez-Giraldez, Ph.D.

Raul was a computational biologist in the Franco Lab. He helped analyze data for various projects in the lab, including the single cell genomics projects. Raul is currently a bioinformatician at the NIH. 


Colby A. Tubbs

Colby was a Franco lab research tech working on the generation of transcription factor mutants using CRISPR/Cas9 methodologies in breast cancer. He is currently a graduate student at Vanderbilt University.


Gabriela Ramirez Renta

Gabriela completed her summer internship in 2019 as part of the UNC Summer Of Learning And Research SOLAR program. She is a senior undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico. 


Roberto Herrera Del Valle

Roberto was a summer intern in the Franco Lab. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Virginia.

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