We are designing new immunologically active biomaterials platforms in order to treat a range of diseases and conditions including inflammatory diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis); infectious diseases such as influenza and HIV; and other conditions including cancer, food allergy, and urinary tract infections. We are a diverse and multidisciplinary group of researchers spanning a broad range of career stages (undergraduates, masters students, PhD students, postdocs, faculty) working together to tackle challenging problems in healthcare.
The immune system and the ways that a material can interact with it are complex, and any immunotherapy must be designed to elicit a precisely tuned combination of immunological responses, so we construct materials using molecular self-assembly. We design and synthesize proteins, peptides, and their derivatives to have the ability to self-organize into particles, fibers, and gels, and we strive to create platforms where multiple different molecules can be arranged within these materials in a modular, mix-and-match style that allows us to systematically engineer them. Using these platforms, we seek to engage the numerous parallel immunological mechanisms that enable successful immunotherapies.
Many of our projects also work to address challenges in immunotherapy delivery, from the tissue-level (for example designing mucosally active immunotherapies) to globally (for example designing immunotherapies that are shelf-stable and easily administered even in low-resource settings).
In parallel with our design-based research aimed at developing new medical technologies, a considerable amount of our effort goes into understanding the basic mechanisms by which materials engage the adaptive immune system. Shedding light on the complex interactions between the immune system and biomaterials allows us to continually improve them.
Biomaterials immunology requires a highly multidisciplinary research approach, so our work is deeply collaborative, relying on the expertise and collaborative spirit of colleagues throughout Duke and beyond.
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Image credit: Peter Allen