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Aleksander S. Popel, PhD

Aleksander Popel
Research Focus Area(s): Computational Medicine, Genomics and Systems Biology, Immunoengineering, Translational Cell and Tissue Engineering
Research Interests: Systems biology, computational biology, computational medicine, angiogenesis, cancer, immuno-oncology, cancer immunotherapy, quantitative systems pharmacology, peripheral arterial disease
Research Interests

Research Interests

Quantitative Cancer Biology and Therapeutics

The overarching goal of the Systems Biology Laboratory is to apply modern methods of biomedical engineering to better understand the mechanisms of cancer and to significantly advance treatments for this devastating disease. Cancer cells invade into healthy tissues and co-opt these tissues into promoting tumor growth and metastasis. They use multitude of ways to evade therapeutics by adapting to drugs making them ineffective. To control and conquer the disease, the applications of modern quantitative methods are absolutely necessary; our laboratory is at the cutting edge of the cancer systems biology research. The research in the laboratory is broad and uses a combination of experimental and computational approaches. We investigate cancer at different levels from genes to proteins to tumor, and eventually to the whole body. We look into the ways the factors that stimulate tumor growth (eg growth factors) signal to the interior of the cell, and how cancer cells communicate with their neighbors such as immune cells and vascular cells. We develop and test novel drugs to treat different types of cancer.

Our research focuses on the following areas:

  • Fundamental studies of cancer biology to better understand how different cells interact to cause cancer metastasis
  • Identification of novel molecular drug targets for different types of cancer
  • Drug discovery including therapeutic peptide agents to inhibit tumor growth and metastasis
  • Immuno-oncology aimed at turning patient’s immune system to targeting cancer cells

Peripheral arterial disease

Ischemic cardiovascular diseases such as Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) are caused by atherosclerosis that results in impaired blood flow to the tissues. A therapeutic intervention for PAD is to induce angiogenesis, the growth of new microvessels, to improve blood flow and oxygen delivery. Our approaches to this disease include multiscale computational modeling and bioinformatics combined with animal experiments. Among the molecular targets we consider Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), Hypoxia-Inducible Factor (HIF), thrombospondin (TSP), and matrix metalloproteinases (MMP). The goal of our research is to develop better treatments for the disease.

Titles & Affiliations


  • Professor, Biomedical Engineering
  • Professor, Medicine
  • Professor, Oncology

Affiliated Centers & Institutes



  • PhD, Biofluidmechanics, Moscow University, 1972
  • MS, Fluid Mechanics, Moscow University, 1967
Faculty News

Recent Highlights

  • April 10, 2019
    In studies with lab-grown human cells and in mice, Aleksander Popel and other Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have found that an experimental drug may be twice as good at fighting vision loss as previously thought.
  • June 15, 2018
    Researchers with the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine received a $3 million grant to use computational modeling and software to understand biological data, in combination with unique in vitro and animal studies, to better treat liver cancer.
  • May 19, 2017
    A novel peptide and drug delivery system developed by a trio of Johns Hopkins researchers is closer to improving vision care for millions of people who suffer from degenerative retinal diseases.

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