Whitaker Hall, Room 218
Jai Rudra, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, University of Texas Medical Branch, will present.
Abstract: Our lab works in the nascent field of 'Biomaterials Immunoengineering', which encompasses elements of materials science, chemistry, and immunology to tackle multidisciplinary problems in vaccine development and immunotherapy. Many of the successful vaccines we have today are based on inactivated pathogens or live vectors such as non-replicating bacteria or viruses that induce robust antibody and cellular immunity. However, antivector immunity and safety concerns complicate their use in infants and aged populations and in people with immunocompromised systems. We are interested in the development of amyloid-inspired synthetic peptides that assemble into β-sheet rich fibrils and hydrogels as carriers and adjuvants for vaccines due to their biocompatibility, ease of synthesis, and the rich chemistry with which the primary sequence can be manipulated to impart structure or function. Unlike traditional vaccine adjuvants (alum or Freund's), peptide nanofibers are noninflammatory and vaccination does not lead to inflammation at the injection site (recruitment of neutrophils, eosinophils, monocytes, etc.) and several studies have confirmed the efficacy of peptide nanofiber-based vaccines in animal models of infectious disease, cancer, and drug addiction. We collaborate with engineers, immunologists, and clinicians to not only develop synthetic vaccination platforms but also understand the fundamentals of interactions between immune cell populations and amyloid-inspired biomaterials, which will inform other areas of research such as tissue engineering and regenerative medicine where peptide-based hydrogels are being investigated as implantable cell culture scaffolds and drug delivery vehicles.