Joel Collier: Supramolecular Materials for Immunomodulation

Friday, March 3, 2017

In this talk, biomedical engineering researcher Joel Collier states that successful immunotherapies must raise both the correct strength and phenotype of an immune response, and explains that to treat a particular disease via the immune system, it can be challenging to discover what the optimally protective immune response may be and then reliably achieve it. In part, he says, the challenge arises from the fact that the overall phenotype of an immune response includes contributions from many different cell subsets, including T cells, B cells, and antigen presenting cells, all of which interact complexly to generate an integrated response.  His research group has been developing supramolecular materials, primarily comprised of peptides and proteins, which serve as modular platforms for discovering and eliciting clinically important immune responses by engaging and modulating this cellular diversity. Collier describes several different self-assembling components, including synthetic fibrillizing peptides, expressed proteins that can be induced to self-assemble after purification, and coiled coil nanofibers displaying immune epitopes. This class of materials has surprising self-adjuvanting properties, which the Collier Group laboratory has recently exploited towards several clinical goals. In one example, the lab is developing novel treatments for chronic inflammation by creating biomaterials that can raise therapeutic levels of TNF-neutralizing antibodies. In this system, the strength and phenotype of the immune response can be modulated and optimized by systematically varying the epitope composition, a task that is greatly facilitated by the materials’ non-covalent construction.  
Joel CollierAbout Joel Collier
Joel Collier, PhD, became an associate professor at in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2016. His research focuses on designing novel biomolecular materials for applications within immunotherapies, three-dimensional cell culture, and tissue repair. He received his undergraduate degree in materials science from Rice University and his PhD in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University. From 2007 until moving to Duke, he was a faculty member in the Surgery Department at the University of Chicago. He currently sits on the editorial boards of Acta Biomaterialia and the Journal of Materials Chemistry B and the NIH study section on Biomaterials and Biointerfaces. He has won awards including an NSF CAREER award and the 2015 Biomaterials Science Lectureship, he is the 2017 Chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering, and he is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers (AIMBE).