Drug Discovery and Development Laboratory

Gene  Therapy and Blood Substitutes Laboratory

Director: Jacob Elmer, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering

Focus: Develop new treatments for cancer patients using gene therapy; develop a universal blood substitute.

Research Highlights:

  • Gene Therapy:  There are many ways to effectively deliver therapeutic transgenes into cell nuclei, but most cells recognize transgenes as foreign and quickly attack them.  We are trying to enhance gene therapy by inhibiting these cellular defenses and/or modifying our transgenes to mimic chromosomes and avoid detection by the cell.
  • Blood Substitutes:  Donated blood is the preferred method of treatment for patients suffering severe blood loss; however, donated blood is frequently in short supply. To fill this gap, we are investigating the use of invertebrate (e.g. earthworms or clams) hemoglobins in transfusions as an alternative to donated blood. 

Facility Highlights:

  • Molecular Genetics: Our lab is outfitted with all of the equipment necessary to prepare new genes for gene therapy (e.g. thermal cycler, gel electrophoresis, shakers, etc.).
  • Biotek Gen5 Plate Reader: This device allows us to measure absorbance, fluorescence and luminescence in a wide variety of chemical and biological reactions.
  • Animal Cell Culture: A biological safety cabinet and CO2 incubator are used for growing and studying human cancer cells.