Manuel Leonetti wins 2022 ASCB Innovation in Research Award

Manuel (Manu) Leonetti, a Group Leader II at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, has been chosen to receive the 2022 Innovation in Research Award from the American Society for Cell Biology. Leonetti will present the talk “OpenCell: intracellular cartography of the human proteome” on Tuesday, December 6, at Cell Bio 2022 in Washington, DC.

The ASCB Innovation in Research Award recognizes early and mid-career scientists for their new and innovative research in cell biology. Innovation for this purpose is defined as an accomplishment that has significantly impacted progress in advancing the field of cell biology based on work done within three years before the nomination.

Manuel Leonetti

Research statement: We want to map the intracellular organization of the human cell: how are all its different molecular components arranged and wired together at the sub-cellular level? We are motivated by how this will help elucidate fundamental mechanisms in physiology and disease, but also by the process of “reverse engineering” the cell – understanding the details of how it is built to be able to predictably tune its properties and behavior in the future.

Our first focus is on proteins. Specifically, we seek to characterize where all the different proteins that make up the cell are localized and what molecular interactions exist between them. A direct goal is to generate large-scale datasets that will serve 1) to characterize the proteome at a systems level and 2) to develop data science methods for its analysis. 

Doing cell biology at a large scale also makes us interested in how we can streamline and automate many of our experiments and facilitate access to our data for the community. To this end, we are developing software and hardware to automate our experiments’ design, implementation, and analysis. We are also building an interactive website ( for everyone to navigate our data. All our work is open-source, so anyone can re-use the tools and data we generate. 

Statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion: Diversity is a catalyst for team science and innovative research. As an LGBTQ scientist and the product of public-school education, I realize first-hand the importance of intentionally bringing in colleagues from different cultures or socio-economic settings. I strive to promote diversity by mentoring young scientists from under-represented backgrounds, who can also drive change by serving as role models in the future. In 2019, I became a mentor for the Biotechnology program at City College San Francisco and hosted a Nigerian student for a semester. In 2020, my institution started a DEI-focused summer internship program, and I immediately signed up as a mentor and a teacher. I was very proud when my first intern from Morehouse College (an HBCU) was later accepted to the Genetics Ph.D. program at Hopkins, and I look forward to welcoming more interns in the coming years. Finally, I seek to promote women’s representation on my team, and I intentionally run a gender-balanced group. 

Read more about Manu Leonetti.

Listen to an interview with Manu on ASCB’s Pathways Podcast.

About the Author:

This post was collaboratively written by several ASCB staff members.