Portraits of Claire Stanley and Jun Ishihara

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Talk title: SOIL-ON-A-CHIP: Deciphering the secret life of soil microbes using novel microfluidic platforms

Abstract: Soil is one of the most complex systems on Earth, governed by numerous physical, geochemical and biological processes, and provides the ecosystem services vital for all forms of terrestrial life. This ‘material’ supports a myriad of plants, microorganisms and microfauna and hosts a complex array of interactions taking place between these living elements at the cellular scale. Microbes play a crucial role in the ecosystem services provided by soils to humans and provide several important ecosystem functions that include nutrient cycling, the biocontrol of pathogens and regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. However, despite the importance of microbes in soil functioning, there exists a major knowledge gap concerning the function and dynamics of the soil microbiome and influence of the physio-chemical environment upon microbial interaction and communication at the cellular level.

Recently, it has been demonstrated that microfluidic technology offers several new opportunities to study whole living organisms and their interactions. Microfluidics is defined as the science and technology of fabricated systems used to manipulate fluids on the micron scale and has a great potential to provide a unique view of biological events at the level of single organisms and cells (i.e. microbe–microbe interactions), allowing precise environmental control, high-resolution imaging and the simulation of environmental complexity. Several microfluidic systems have been developed to probe the interaction between fungi, bacteria and nematodes, as well as to investigate the interaction of plant root with their environment under simulated environmental heterogeneity. The ability to untangle microbial interaction and communication networks in the rhizosphere is central to gaining an enhanced understanding of soil microbiome and ecosystem function, and we are now developing new tools to enhance our understanding of interactions in the rhizosphere by using microfluidic technology to zoom into the microscale.

Dr Claire StanleyBiography: Claire graduated from Durham University in 2006 (Chemistry, MChem), where she received the Michael Weston Scholarship Award, and then obtained an MRes in Protein and Membrane Chemical Biology and a PhD in Chemistry from Imperial College London. There she was awarded the Sir Alan Fersht Prize for her Master thesis and a prestigious scholarship from the Society of the Chemical Industry. Fascinated by microfluidics, Claire joined the group of Prof. Andrew deMello in the Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering at ETH Zürich, Switzerland as a postdoctoral research fellow. In 2016, she was awarded a prestigious Swiss National Science Foundation Ambizione career grant to start her own independent research team at Agroscope (Agroecology and Environment Research Division, Zürich) and joined the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London as a Lecturer in 2020.

Click here to read Claire’s full biography on her Imperial College Personal Web page.


Talk title: Protein engineering approaches to control immune system for safe and efficacious drug development

Abstract: Cancer immunotherapy is the current first-in-line treatment of choice for many types of cancer. Unlike other common cancer treatments that target cancer cells directly, immunotherapy activates an individual’s own immune system to fight cancer. Checkpoint inhibitors (CPI) and IL-12 have shown clinical antitumor efficacy but are frequently accompanied with side-effects caused by systemic immune system activation. Also, in terms of efficacy, more than half of cancer patients do not respond to CPI therapy. Here, we addressed this need by targeting both the CPI antibodies (anti-CTLA4 + anti-PD-L1) and the cytokines (IL-12) to tumors via fusion to a collagen binding domain (CBD) protein. This approach harnesses the exposure of tumor stroma collagen due to the leakiness of the tumor vasculature. We show that intravenously administered CBD protein localized preferentially in tumors. CBD addition decreased the systemic toxicity of these agents. CBD conjugation to CPI abolished the liver and lung damages. CBD fusion to IL-12 decreased hepatotoxicity and cytokine release syndrome. As to their efficacy, CBD-CPI and CBD-IL-12 suppressed tumor growth compared to their unmodified forms in multiple models. CBD addition to these agents increased tumor-infiltrating immune cells. CBD can be used to engineer immunotherapies with high translational promise as systemically-administered tumor targeting drugs. Recently, we have developed a “mask” for cancer immunotherapy. My drug delivery system approaches aim to make cancer therapy safe and efficacious.es.

Dr Jun IshiharaBiography: Jun Ishihara received a PhD in medical genome science from the University of Tokyo. He first joined the Hubbell Laboratory in EPFL, Switzerland as a post-doctoral fellow and has moved with the lab to University of Chicago. In 2020, he joined the Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London as a lecturer. He is a co-founder of Arrow Immune INC. and Sciencelounge LLC. (Running a Science Bar “Incubator” in Tokyo for research outreach activity).

Click here to read Jun’s full biography on his Imperial College Personal Web page.

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