Erica Cai, PhD

Assistant Investigator

Joined the IBRI in April 2021

Erica Cai

Erica Cai, PhD, is a biologist who focuses on beta cell protection and diabetes prevention. Her ultimate research goal is to better understand metabolic diseases and help to improve patients’ quality of life.

In addition to her role at the Lilly Diabetes Center of Excellence at the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI), she also is a member of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Cai is currently funded by a prestigious Career Development Award from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Ongoing studies in the Cai Lab are focused on integrating genetic engineering and beta cell biology to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying cell immunogenicity modulation, ER stress mitigation, protein secretion, metabolic flexibility and their contributions to metabolic disorders and diabetes pathogenesis.

Prior to establishing her lab at the IBRI, Cai was an instructor in medicine at the Harvard Medical School. She worked in the laboratory of Dr. Peng Yi and the CRISPR screen core facility at the Joslin Diabetes Center, where she developed research projects for beta cell regeneration and cellular stress protection.

Cai completed her PhD training under the mentorship of Dr. Minna Woo at the University of Toronto in 2014, where she worked on islet cell development, cell fate decision, proliferation and metabolic inflammation. Her research led to publications in peer-reviewed international journals, including Nature Metabolism, Cell Metabolism, PNAS, Diabetes and others. For a full list of Cai's published research, click here.

Cai, originally from Taiwan, pursued her studies in Canada and is currently based in the United States. Outside her professional endeavors, she finds joy in travel, movies, music, hiking and cooking.

Areas of Expertise

  • Beta cell immunogenicity
  • Cellular stress response
  • CRISPR screens
  • Gene editing
  • Islet cell biology


  • Doctor of Philosophy (Medical Science), University of Toronto, 2014
  • Master of Science (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), National Taiwan University, 2008
  • Bachelor of Science (Medical Technology), Taipei Medical University, 2006

Awards & Certifications

  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Career Development Award, 2023
  • ALPCO’s Young Investigator Award, 2020
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, 2019
  • Mary K. Iacocca Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2018
  • Mary K. Iacocca Junior Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2015
  • Canadian Diabetes Association, Doctoral Student Research Award, 2011
  • Banting and Best Diabetes Centre, Annual Trainee Award, 2011, 2013, 2014

Honorary Societies

  • American Association of Immunologists
  • American Diabetes Association
  • Immunology of Diabetes Society