Faculty Experts - Jacob Elmer, PhD

Jacob Elmer, PhD

Jacob Elmer, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemical Engineering
Villanova University College of Engineering

Areas of Expertise

  • Genetic Engineering 
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
  • Gene Therapy
  • CRISPR/Cas9 Genome Editing
  • CAR-T cell therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Hemoglobin, blood donation, and blood loss



Dr. Elmer's lab performs research in two major areas: Genetic Engineering and the development of Blood Substitutes. Decades of research have yielded several vehicles that can efficiently deliver genes to human cells (e.g. viruses, lipids, polymers), but most transgenes are recognized as foreign and quickly silenced after they reach the nucleus. Dr. Elmer’s research focuses on enhancing and prolonging transgene expression to make gene therapy more effective - specifically, enhancing gene expression inside T cells, which can then be genetically reprogrammed and used to target and eradicate leukemia cells.

A shortage in human blood donations is a serious and life-threatening issue that plagues developing countries, battlefields and healthcare facilities alike. Professor Elmer’s research is focused on finding a universal donor “blood substitute” that is safe, stable for long periods of time, and is an effective oxygen carrier. His research is currently focused on developing invertebrate hemoglobins as novel blood substitutes. 


  • Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, Ohio State University
  • B.S., Biochemical Engineering, University of Missouri
  • B.S., Biological Sciences, University of Missouri

Selected Publications

Gene Therapy Publications:

  • Elmer JJ, Christensen MD, Barua S, Lehrman J, Haynes KA, Rege K. The histone deacetylase inhibitor Entinostat enhances polymer-mediated transgene expression in cancer cell lines. Biotechnol Bioeng. 2016 Jun;113(6):1345-56.
  • Christensen MD, Elmer JJ, Eaton S, Gonzalez-Malerva L, LaBaer J, Rege K. Kinome-level screening identifies inhibition of polo-like kinase-1 (PLK1) as a target for enhancing non-viral transgene expression. J Control Release. 2015 Apr 28;204:20-9.
  • Elmer JJ, Christensen MD, Rege K. Applying horizontal gene transfer phenomena to enhance non-viral gene therapy.  J Control Release. 2013 172(1):246-257.
Blood Substitute Publications:
  • Muzzelo C, Neely C, Shah P, Abdulmalik O, Elmer J. Prolonging the shelf life of Lumbricus terrestris erythrocruorin for use as a novel blood substitute. Artif Cells Nanomed Biotechnol. 2017 Feb 20:1-8.
  • Purification of diverse hemoglobins by metal salt precipitation. Protein Expr Purif. 2016 Sep;125:74-82.
  • Elmer J, Zorc K, Rameez S, Zhou Y, Cabrales P, Palmer AF.  Hypervolemic infusion of Lumbricus terrestris erythrocruorin purified by tangential flow filtration.  Transfusion. 2012 52(8)1729-1740.

Selected Professional Experience

  • Postdoctoral Scholar, Arizona State University
  • Adjunct Faculty, Grand Canyon University
  • Graduate Research Assistant, Ohio State University

Selected Research

  • Manipulating Epigenetic Mechanisms to Enhance Non-Viral Gene Therapy, National Science Foundation Grant, 2014-2017.
  • Development of Learning Modules for Fundamental Biology Concepts and Experiments to Enhance Student Learning and Training, Villanova University Grant, 2014-2015.

About Villanova

Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.

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