Principal Investigator

 Hector L. Franco, Ph.D. 

Assistant Professor 

UNC Lineberger Cancer Center

Department of Genetics

UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine

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 Cataño, 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 under the tutelage of Dr. Carmen Cadilla. 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.   


Grants Administration 

Daniela Miteva

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.  


Lab Manager & Technician

Kamila Wisniewska

Kamila is in charge of the day to day operations of the lab and handles mouse related projects. In addition, Kamila leads her own project related to the genomic mechanisms of a novel transcription factor in triple negative breast cancer. 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.  


Shen Li, Ph.D.

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. 


Postdoctoral Fellow

ACS Postdoctoral Fellow

Michael W. Lewis, Ph.D.

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. 


Computational Biologist

Raul Mendez-Giraldez, Ph.D.

Raul obtained his Master's in Biotechnology at the University of Barcelona and a PhD in Bioinformatics at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, in Brussels, Belgium. In the Franco Lab, he uses his expertise in bioinformatics to study genome biology, gene regulation, epigentics and molecular modeling. He performs analysis on novel NGS data sets and collaborates with the other team members to develop new concepts and programs for data collection and analysis.  



Bioinformatics Graduate Student

Michael R. Kelly

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. 



Bioinformatics Graduate Student

Mathew J. Regner

Matt is a graduate student in the Bioinformatics and Compuational 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. 



Lab Alumni 

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. 

Emma R. Hinkle

Emma is a graduate student in the Genetics and Molecular Biology Graduate program at UNC. During her rotation in the Franco lab,  she worked on the molecular and genomic crosstalk of endocrine and inflammatory signaling in ovarian cancer.  

Angana Mukherjee

Angana is a graduate student in the Pathobiology and Translational Science program at UNC. During her rotation in the Franco lab, she worked on CRISPR approaches for endogenous tagging of transcription factors.  


Roberto Herrera Del Valle

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

© 2019 This website reflects only the views of the author and is not a publication of The University of North Carolina, which bears no responsibility for its content.

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