logo for CELS

The Center of Excellence for Leukemia Studies (CELS) was established to advance basic research and diagnosis of childhood hematological malignancies and to facilitate the translation of novel scientific findings into the clinic to improve outcomes. CELS is led by Charles Mullighan, MBBS (Hons), MSc, MD of the Department of Pathology.

CELS aims to recruit and increase the number of research faculty focused on hematological malignancies at St. Jude, create a synergistic environment among investigators to accelerate the pace of discovery, focus research efforts on disease mechanism, and foster innovation and enhance core infrastructure in several key areas: flow cytometry, single cell genomics and metabolomics. 

CELS brings together new and existing investigators researching leukemia in a collaborative enterprise that will serve to establish St. Jude as a global leader in hematological malignancies and have a sustained impact in improving cure rates.

CELS Research Groups

Jian Xu

Dr. Jian Xu

Gene regulatory processes controlling stem cell development and blood cancers

Jian Xu

Dr. Alyssa Kennedy

Molecular drives behind bone marrow failure and leukemia predisposition syndromes

Jian Xu

Dr. Charles Mullighan Lab

Genomic drivers of leukemia and treatment failure

Jian Xu

Dr. Jeff Klco Lab

Molecular and biological causes of pediatric myeloid tumors

Core Resources

Single Cell Technologies

Single cell sequencing technologies facilitate analysis of genomic, transcriptomic, and other multi-omics data to uncover differences in cell populations and shed light on evolutionary changes. CELS provides affiliated researchers the opportunity to use single cell infrastructure to support their investigations. Operation, maintenance, and training for equipment is managed by Scientist Amit Kumar, MS.

Single Cell Platforms:

  • 10x Genomics Chromium Controller
  • 10x Genomics Chromium X
  • Mission Bio Tapestri
  • Takara ICELL8 cx Single-Cell System

Metabolomics Core

Metabolomics is the study, at large-scale, of metabolites present in cells, biological fluids, and tissues. This profiling technique affords inquiry of comprehensive panels of small molecules that may ultimately inform disease mechanism and the development of targeted therapeutic approaches. The available systems allow for simultaneous high-speed, high-resolution detection of a wide range of compounds valuable for ‘discovery metabolomics’ or targeted analysis and tracing studies. All system operations are managed by Lead Scientist Danny Vu, PhD.


  • Agilent 6546 LC/Q-TOF coupled with 1290 Infinity II LC

  • Agilent 8890 GC System with 5977C MSD

Flow Cytometry Core

CELS offers flow cytometry and cell sorting support to its investigators by providing walk-up and operator-run instruments. These technologies allow for the analysis and isolation of cells based on physical and chemical properties and is an essential component of leukemia research. We consult with investigators on experiment design and provide services for data collection, analysis and cell sorting. Consultation, operation, maintenance and training for equipment is managed by Lead Researcher Pooja Singh and Researcher Josi Lott.


  • BD FACSymphony A5 Analyzer
  • Sony SA3800 Spectral Analyzer
  • Sony MA900 Cell Sorter
  • BD FACSymphony S6 Cell Sorter

Join Our Team

CELS is actively recruiting faculty who are motivated to undertake research focused on understanding hematological malignancies.

CELS Staff

Kathryn Roberts, PhD – Director of Research Operations, Pathology

Danielle Neely – Sr. Administrative Specialist, Pathology

Amit Kumar, MS – Scientist, CELS Single Cell Technologies

Hieu (Danny) Vu, PhD – Lead Scientist, CELS Metabolomics Core

Pooja Singh – Lead Researcher, Flow Cytometry Core, Pathology

Josi Lott – Researcher, Flow Cytometry Core, Pathology

Shaohua Lei, PhD – Sr. Bioinformatics Research Scientist, Pathology

Xiaoming Zhong, PhD – Sr. Bioinformatics Research Scientist, Pathology