Woman of Distinction - Dr. Carla Kim

Dr. Kim is an internationally renowned leader in the field of lung stem cell biology. She is Professor of Genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital. Her laboratory has pioneered the use of stem cell biology approaches for the study of adult lung progenitor cells and lung cancer. Her work has contributed to a better understanding of stem cell biology in the lung, development of innovative approaches for examining the cellular and molecular basis of cancer and pulmonary disease, and identification of new therapeutic avenues for lung cancer.

The success that Dr. Kim’s lab has had investigating the molecular pathways that regulate lung stem cells and the role of stem cells in lung cancer is a testament to her potential to make new strides in understanding lung disease and basic biology. Working with genetically engineered mouse models that accurately represent human lung cancer, Dr. Kim’s group was the first to identify cancer stem cell populations in the two most frequent types of lung cancer in patients (Cell Stem Cell, 2010 and Cancer Cell, 2014). Her lab’s knowledge in lung stem cells has revealed a new combination therapy approach for particular subsets of lung cancer patients (Fillmore et al, Nature, 2015). Dr. Kim’s lab has developed a 3D lung organoid system that makes it possible to derive specialized lung cells from lung stem cells (Lee et al, Cell, 2014).

The organoid culture system developed by the Kim Lab grows tiny replicas of lungs, allowing them to model the complex interactions of lung stem cells and their neighboring cells. Most recently, the Kim Lab used the organoid cultures to define new types of mesenchymal cells that are required to support lung injury repair (Lee et al, Cell, 2017). This system can now be used to probe the role of lung stem cells and the diverse cell types with which they interact in lung cancer, in lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis and pulmonary fibrosis, and during lung development. These advances by the Kim Lab provide a whole new way to study lung diseases in the laboratory dish and to find new therapeutic interventions.

The impact of Dr. Kim’s work has been acknowledged in many ways. From her publication in Cell Stem Cell winning Best Cancer Paper of 2010 to her receipt of the William Rippe Distinguished Award in Lung Cancer Research from the Lung Cancer Research Foundation, she has been widely acknowledged as one of the brightest researchers in lung stem cells. Dr. Kim is from Fremont, Ohio and received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Ohio Northern University. She received her Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin—Madison in 2002 and performed postdoctoral research at the MIT Center for Cancer Research. She joined the Stem Cell Program at Children’s Hospital Boston and established her laboratory in September 2006.

Congratulations, Dr. Carla Kim!