Lab Members

Jay Sharma, MS, Lab Manager

I have received two MS degrees in Biological Sciences from California State University Channel Islands and State University of New York at Buffalo. I have over 3.5 years of experience in the field of translational research and regenerative medicine. I have worked in the Cherqui lab for 2.5+ years as an MS candidate (CIRM research fellow) and Staff Research Associate. My MS thesis was mainly focused on investigating the mechanisms in hematopoietic stem cell-mediated therapy in the treatment of Cystinosis. In addition, I have been involved in conducting toxicology and pharmacology pre-clinical studies for autologous stem cell transplantation to cure Cystinosis, as per GLP compliance.

Laura Hernandez, BS, CCRC, CPT, Clinical Research Coordinator

As the clinical research coordinator, Laura Hernandez has been on assignment at Cherqui Lab for over 2 years, assisting Dr. Cherqui on cystinosis studies including preparations for the autologous stem cell transplant protocol. She received her B.S. from University of California, Davis. She is a Certified Phlebotomy Technician and a Certified Clinical Research Coordinator.

Maulik Panchal, MS, MBA, Project Manager

Maulik Panchal is a highly driven regulatory affairs professional, with knowledge in biopharmaceutical and medical devices regulations. He's also experienced in Regulatory, CMC, Formulations and QA with sound project management skills.

Lei Cao, BS, MS, Research Administrator

Lei Cao joined Dr. Cherqui Lab in November 2019.  Her primary responsibilities include managing clinical trials billings and resolving financial discrepancies.  She also handles daily business administrative tasks and accounting matters.  Lei worked at the University of Maryland as a Faculty Research Assistant and also a Business Coordinator between 2003-2012.  Lei received a B.S in Information Sciences and M.S. in Technology Management from University of Maryland, College Park.

Marya Bengali, BS, Clinical Research Coordinator

I received my B.S. in biology from San Diego State University in 2017. After graduating, I worked at Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine in a reproductive medicine lab studying preeclampsia. I joined the Cherqui Lab in February 2018 as a Clinical Research Coordinator for the Confocal Microscopy project studying the intra-dermal images of patients with Cystinosis. 

Joseph Rainaldi, BS, MS, Master's Student Researcher

Joseph received his BS and MS in Biomedical Engineering with a Specialization in Regenerative Medicine and minor in Biotechnology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2020. While at Cal Poly, he worked to increase transgene packaging efficiency into yeast HIV virus like particles until he joined the Cherqui Lab in September 2019 as a CIRM Masters Intern. Here, Joseph is engaged in translating a CRISPR/Cas9 mediated hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) therapy for the treatment of Friedreich’s ataxia from bench to bedside and developing a targeted cell therapy for the ocular pathology of cystinosis. Additionally, he is studying ways to overcome current shortcomings experienced when using the CRISPR system to edit HSCs. He is driven by the potential genetic therapeutics have to treat disease efficiently and effectively.

Spencer Goodman, BS, Graduate Student Researcher

I received my B.S. from Boston University in Biology with a focus on Molecular Biology and Genetics. After graduation, I worked at the National Institutes of Health for several years to continue my education at the bench. I have always been fascinated with gene therapy and joined the Cherqui lab to get a chance to work in this exciting field. I work on deciphering the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the basic biology of our stem cell therapy. Specifically, I am investigating the nature of the formation of tunneling nanotubes, the delivery highways for our gene therapy products.

Priyanka Mishra, Ph.D.,Post-doc Fellow

I did my PhD from Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS) Lucknow-India in December 2017, where my research work focused on neuroinflammatory and neuroinfectious diseases. After completing my PhD, I joined Dr Shauna Yuan lab as a postdoc Fellow in Department of Neuroscience at University of California, San Diego in January 2018. In Shauna’s lab I tried to explore the cellular and molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases specially focused on Tauopathies by using human iPSCs based model system. I always interested to work in the field of stem cells biology and regenerative medicine, So I joined Dr Cherqui lab as a post doc fellow in July 2019. Here I am continuing my research focusing on hematopoietic stem cells and gene therapy approach to treat neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorder.

Jose Cano, BS, MS, Staff Research Associate

I received my B.S in Pharmacological Chemistry from Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla, Mexico in 2016. I also obtained a California phlebotomist certification in 2018, and I am currently doing my M.S in biotechnology at Cal State San Marcos. I joined the Cherqui lab in February 2018 as a Staff Research Associate. Here, I have performed Toxicological and pharmacological GLP-like studies as per FDA compliance for Cystinosis and Danon genetic disorders, and I am one of the phlebotomists of the lab.