Our research is at the interface of engineering, immunology and microbiology, biophysics, and biomaterials — employing both experimental techniques and computational modeling to address a variety of health problems. Below are select examples of ongoing projects.
Please note that we frequently initiate new projects. For an up to date breakdown of ongoing research projects, please contact us.
Mucosal immunology and the mucus barrier
We seek to develop methods to improve protection against infectious diseases at mucosal surfaces. To infect mucosal tissues, such as the lungs, GI tract and female reproductive tract, pathogens must penetrate viscoelastic mucus coatings. We seek to improve our understanding of the interactions between pathogens and mucins, and use this knowledge to develop methods that can better trap pathogens in mucus secretions, which in turn could be readily eliminated via natural mucus clearance mechanisms or other degradative processes, thereby preventing them from infecting cells and tissues in the first place. Two particular areas of interest include harnessing antibody-mucin interactions to crosslink pathogens to mucins as well as tuning the commensal microbial communities.
Antibody response to synthetic nanoparticles
Synthetic polymers are increasingly used in drug delivery and tissue engineering applications. However, how the adaptive immune system can generate antibodies against synthetic polymers remain not well understood. We are currently applying the genetic sequencing and molecular biology techniques to investigate how antibodies can specifically bind to synthetic polymers, the prevalence and ease of induction of such antibodies, and strategies to overcome pre-existing polymer-binding antibodies.
Targeted nanoparticle delivery
Conjugating ligands to nanoparticles for targeted nanoparticle delivery may result in premature elimination from the systemic circulation, thereby limiting the injected dose of particles that can reach target cells/tissues. Furthermore, many disease targets are inherently heterogeneous and not easily targeted by any single ligand. We are investigating ‘pre-targeting’ using bispecific fusion proteins that can crosslink nanoparticles to cells, enabling potentially greater delivery of nanoparticles to more diverse array of cells simultaneously.
An important theme in our lab is the use of computational modeling to both substantiate our experimental discoveries and guide our experimental efforts to enhance protection against infectious disease or nanoparticle-based drug delivery.