Carolyn W.T. Lee-Parsons

Associate Professor,  Chemical Engineering
Associate Professor,  Chemistry & Chemical Biology
Affiliated Faculty,  Bioengineering

Contact

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Office

  • 335 Mugar
  • 617.373.3634

Lab

  • 132 Mugar

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Research Focus

Production of valuable pharmaceutical compounds from plant cell cultures, specifically the production of important anti-cancer drug molecules from cell cultures of Catharanthus roseus

About

Joined the Chemical Engineering Department in Fall 1999.

My main research focus is the production of valuable pharmaceutical compounds from plant cell cultures, specifically the production of important anti-cancer drug molecules from cell cultures of Catharanthus roseus. Plant cell culture is potentially a better route for supplying certain structurally complex drug molecules than chemical synthesis or extraction from whole plants. Moreover, plant cell culture can potentially produce these drug molecules at a faster and more consistent rate than whole plants. The overall vision of my research is to meet the needs and demands of important and cost-prohibitive plant-derived pharmaceuticals using plant cell culture, applying engineering strategies, and ultimately developing an economically viable process using plant cell culture.

Education

  • 1995 PhD (Chemical Engineering), Cornell University, Advisor: Prof. Michael L. Shuler
  • BS (Chemical Engineering), University of Kansas Summa cum laude

Honors & Awards

  • Excellence in Mentoring Award, 2023
  • College of Engineering Faculty Fellow, 2022
  • University Excellence in Teaching Award, 2019
  • Martin W. Essigmann Outstanding Teaching Award, 2013, 2018
  • Selected for the Northeastern Research Leadership Development Initiative (ReDI) Program, 2016 – 2017
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award, 2002 – 2007

Research Overview

Production of valuable pharmaceutical compounds from plant cell cultures, specifically the production of important anti-cancer drug molecules from cell cultures of Catharanthus roseus

The Lee-Parsons’ Lab seeks to understand how plant cells regulate the biosynthesis of important molecules and then reprograms this regulatory network to increase production.  Towards this goal, we apply methods in molecular biology and analytical chemistry to engineer the production of important compounds from plant cell & tissue cultures.  Our team includes chemical engineers, bioengineers, biochemists, molecular biologists, and plant biologists.  Our research vision is to meet the need for critical plant-derived pharmaceuticals or an alternative source of biofuels using cultures of plants or microalgae.

Cellular & Metabolic Lab

The Lee-Parsons Team investigates and engineers the production of pharmaceuticals from tissue cultures of plants (www.northeastern.edu/lee-parsons). Our model is the medicinal plant, Catharanthus roseus, the current source of the chemotherapeutic drugs, vinblastine and vincristine. Our strategy for engineering increased production involves: 1) investigating the network of “on- and off-switches” (called transcription factors) that control the biosynthesis of these medicinal compounds, and 2) developing synthetic biology tools towards engineering their increased production. Aspects of our research involve modular cloning, gene expression analysis, metabolite analysis, genetic engineering, cultivation of aseptic tissue cultures, and bioprocess development.

Cellular & Metabolic Lab

Selected Research Projects

Selected Publications

  • R. Grützner, P. Martin, C. Horn, S. Mortensen, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, J. Stuttmann, S. Marillonnet, High-Efficiency Genome Editing in Plants Mediated by a Cas9 Gene Containing Multiple Introns, Plant Communications, 2(2), 2021, 100135
  • S. Mortensen, D. Bernal-Franco, L.F. Cole, S. Sathitloetsakun, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, EASI transformation: An Efficient Transient Expression Method for Analyzing Gene Function in Catharanthus roseus Seedlings, Frontiers in Plant Sciences, 2019
  • S. Mortensen, J. Weaver, S. Sathitloetsakun, L.F. Cole, N.F. Rizvi, E.J. Cram, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons, The Regulation of Zct1, a Transcriptional Repressor of Monoterpenoid Indole Alkaloid Biosynthetic Genes in Catharanthus roseus, Plant Direct, 3, 2019, 1-13
  • L. Kirchner, A. Wirshing, L. Kurt, T. Reinard, J. Glick, E.J. Cram, H-J. Jacobsen, C.W.T. Lee-Parsons Identification, Characterization, and Expression of Diacylglycerol Acyltransferase Type-1 from Chlorella vulgaris, Algal Research, 13, 2016, 167-181
Lee-Parsons Google Scholar

Undergraduate

Jan 11, 2024

Announcing Spring 2024 AJC Merit Research Scholars

Several engineering students and students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of the Spring 2024 AJC Merit Research Scholars, which funds a co-op in the laboratory of a Northeastern University STEM faculty member.

Carolyn Lee-Parsons

Faculty

Apr 06, 2023

Using Spark Fund Award to Combat Chemotherapy Drug Shortages

ChE/COS Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons is using the Spark Funds she received earlier this year to develop methods to produce more plant-derived chemotherapeutic compounds to meet drug shortages. Her goal is to engineer a way to economically and repeatably get plants to overproduce certain compounds in sufficient quantities to meet the drug’s demand. The Spark Fund will help with funding the project, securing a full patent, and helping the team take the research out of the lab and apply it to real-world problems in society.

Faculty

Jan 25, 2023

Announcing Spring 2023 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering students and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Spring 2023 PEAK Experiences Awards. Base Camp Awardees Sophia Nguyen COE’26, “Neuromodulation of Motor Cortex’s Response to Different Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Pulse Waveforms” Mentor: Mathew Yarossi, Bouvé, Physical Therapy/Movement/Rehab Science This project seeks to use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive […]

Faculty

Jan 24, 2023

Faculty and Staff Awards 2023

Congratulations to all the winners of the faculty and staff awards, and to everyone for their hard work and dedication during the 2022-2023 academic school year. COE Distinguished Faculty Award Yun Raymond Fu, ECE Auroop Ganguly, CEE Luke Landherr, ChE Sinan Müftü, MIE Mark Niedre, BioE Alison Nogueira, Co-op Nian Sun, ECE Constantinos Mavroidis Translational […]

Faculty

Jan 17, 2023

Fall 2022 Spark Fund Awardees

ChE/COS Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons, ECE Professor Edmund Yeh, ChE Assistant Professor Ryan Koppes, and MIE Associate Professor Yaning Li are recipients of the Fall 2022 Spark Fund Awards.

Undergraduate

Oct 18, 2022

BioE Students Nominated for Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program

Bioengineering students Amanda Dee, E’23, and Conor Messor, E’19, were nominated for the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program that prepares graduate students at Stanford University to tackle critical global challenges of the 21st century.

Undergraduate

May 18, 2022

Announcing Summer 2022 PEAK Experiences Awardees

Several engineering students and science students mentored by COE faculty are recipients of Northeastern’s Summer 2022 PEAK Experiences Awards.

Faculty

Apr 15, 2022

Faculty and Staff Awards 2022

Congratulations to all the winners of the faculty and staff awards, and to everyone for their hard work and dedication during the 2021-2022 academic school year.

Amanda Dee

Spotlight Story

Mar 17, 2022

Passion for Research in the Lab and in Industry Leads to Goldwater Scholar Nomination

Amanda Dee, E’23, bioengineering, has always enjoyed learning about the world around her. She participated in FIRST Lego League at the age of 8 and reached out to a professor in her hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts, at 13 years old—an experience that sparked her interest in plant biology. Her passion for hands-on work and STEM […]

Undergraduate

Feb 04, 2022

2022 Goldwater Scholarship Nominees

Bioengineering students Amanda Dee, E’23, and Giona Kleinberg, E’23, were nominated for the 2022 Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

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