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Presented By: Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering Seminar Series

Synthetic immunology: bacteria-enabled modulation of the immune system, with Matthew P. DeLisa, PhD

A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom. A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom.
A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom.
The design of new strategies to dampen or boost the immune response stands as a key challenge for the scientific community. As our understanding of fundamental immunology and biotechnological methodology accumulates, this combined knowledge can be leveraged to engineer immunomodulators with the aim of rationally manipulating the immune response. One potentially transformative approach involves engineering microorganisms to produce potent immunostimulatory agents or execute complex immunological tasks. Indeed, research in synthetic biology has led to the creation of biological matter with profoundly useful immune functions, including bacteria and bacteria-derived products that perform multistep immune functions such as presenting antigen to and co-stimulating helper T cells in a specific manner, or providing integrated signals to B cells to induce affinity maturation and isotype switching during antibody production. Along these lines, our group has developed technologies for custom remodeling of bacterial cell surfaces with protein and small-molecule motifs (for example, carbohydrates or reactive functional groups) that become packaged in released outer membrane vesicles (OMVs). In this seminar, I will discuss our efforts to engineer OMVs for delivering carbohydrate antigens to the immune system and provoking robust antibody responses to these notoriously recalcitrant antigens. Our unique ability to boost immunological responses to carbohydrates is enabling the creation of a new class of conjugate vaccines for targeting glycans in disease as well as the discovery of high-affinity antibodies that specifically recognize carbohydrates of interest, in particular tumor-associated carbohydrate antigens. We anticipate that the synthetic immunology tools developed herein will open the door to new glycan-based therapies with the potential to treat or prevent a diverse range of diseases including autoimmune disorders, cancer, and infectious diseases.

Matthew P. DeLisa is the William L. Lewis Professor of Engineering in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University. His research focuses on understanding and controlling the molecular mechanisms underlying protein biogenesis -- folding and assembly, membrane translocation and post-translational modifications -- in the complex environment of a living cell. Professor DeLisa received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Connecticut in 1996; a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Maryland in 2001; and did postdoctoral work at the University of Texas-Austin, Department of Chemical Engineering. DeLisa joined the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University in 2003. He has also served as a Gastprofessur at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich) in the Institut für Mikrobiologie. He has garnered a number of honors and awards including most recently the ACS Marvin J. Johnson Award in Microbial and Biochemical Technology and the Biotechnology Progress Award for Excellence in Biological Engineering Publication, along with being named to the inaugural “Life Sciences Power 50” by City & State New York. He is an elected fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in recent years has served on the IDA/DARPA Defense Science Study Group and the National Academies Committee on Innovative Technologies to Advance Pharmaceutical Manufacturing.

A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom. A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom.
A speaker talking to a group of students in a classroom.

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