Cai Lab

Research Focus

Integrating genetic engineering and beta cell biology to understand diabetes pathogenesis and enable innovative therapeutic strategies.

What We Do

As diabetes researchers we are well aware of the fact that 10.5 percent of the US population has diabetes (2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report). In fact, the prevalence of diabetes keeps rising despite many decades of research looking for cures for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Therefore, new perspectives on developing treatments for diabetes are urgently needed. 

Enter CRISPR gene-editing.

The advent of CRISPR gene-editing technology has allowed researchers to perform unbiased phenotype-oriented genome-scale screens in higher organisms, but it has not yet been widely applied to diabetes research.

Today, the Cai Lab is using CRISPR gene-editing technology to screen for type 1 diabetes, which is a first among living organisms in diabetes-related research. This research shows that the genome-wide CRISPR screen approach is a powerful tool that could open new avenues to the research of diabetes therapy.

Whether CRISPR or other technology, the Cai Lab is dedicated to better understanding the molecular mechanisms that protect beta cells against autoimmune destruction and cellular stress-induced apoptosis, as well as identifying the genetic risk factors for type 1 diabetes that will lead to prevention.

Cai Lab Team

Staff Snapshot

Erica Cai, PhD

Erica Cai, PhD

Assistant Investigator

  • Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, 2021
  • Research Fellow, Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, 2020
  • Doctor of Medical Science, University of Toronto, 2014
  • Master of Science, National Taiwan University, 2008


Scientists interested in collaborating with the Cai Lab on research should contact Erica Cai.

  • Logo of Harvard Stem Cell Institute Harvard Stem Cell Institute
  • IU logo Indiana University School of Medicine
  • Joslin Diabetes Center Logo Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School
  • Washington University in St. Louis Logo Washington University in St. Louis

Lab Positions

Please reach out to Erica Cai to learn about potential opportunities.

Cai Lab Alumni

  • Austin Morgan