Principal Investigator

 Hector L. Franco, Ph.D. 

V Foundation Scholar

UNC Simmons Scholar

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 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.   

The Franco lab is now funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Program, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the V Foundation for Cancer Research. 


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 & Research Associate 

Kamila Wisniewska

Kamila is in charge of the day to day operations of the lab and handles tumor procurement and processing. She is 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.  


Research Technician 

Caitlin King

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 CIRSPR-related experiments. Caitlin obtained her bachelors degree from Coastal Carolina University and a Masters degree from NC State. 



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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. 


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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

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 


Raul Mendez-Giraldez, PhD

Raul was a computational biologist in the Franco Lab. He help 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