James Nuñez named Bakar Spark Award recipient

September 11, 2023

There is a reason why UC Berkeley consistently ranks as one of the top universities for entrepreneurship. The 2023 Spark Award recipients are a prime example of the power of breakthrough research combined with an entrepreneurial campus ecosystem. 

This year, the Spark Award call expanded to include UC San Francisco faculty who are collaborating with UC Berkeley faculty, springing forth a robust group of health tech innovators who are ready to take on today’s challenges.

The Bakar Spark Award aims to further cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit among the recipients. With funding, resources, and mentorship, they will be equipped to transform their cutting-edge ideas into practical and marketable solutions. As they embark on their entrepreneurial journey, these talented individuals will not only lead their ventures to success but will also inspire a new generation of aspiring entrepreneurs on campus.

Get to know the new Spark Award recipients and their projects below: 

James Nuñez, CRISPR epigenetic editing for immune cell engineering

James Nuñez is pioneering new CRISPR technologies that do not induce potentially harmful DNA breaks in human cells. Instead, he proposes to pioneer new CRISPR tools that can edit the ‘epigenetic’ chemistry of human immune cells to turn off genes that allow for more persistent anti-tumor killing activity. He will use recent advances in mRNA therapeutics to deliver his new CRISPR tools into primary immune cells for use in cancer immunotherapy applications. The resulting epigenetic editing technologies transcends to other biomedical applications where targeted silencing of disease-relevant genes leads to clinically beneficial outcomes.

Bakar Fellows Program