Portrait of Professor Hubbell

Talk title: Molecular Engineering to Turn Immunity On and Off

Abstract: The immune system exists in a delicate balance of mounting active, effector responses to fight infection from invading pathogens and to kill mutated cells, while existing in an active state of tolerance to the non-self contents of the gut and on the skin and to self proteins throughout the body. Dysfunction can lead to susceptibility to infection and cancer on the one hand, and to allergy and autoimmunity on the other.

We are developing immunotherapies to tip this balance one way or the other – for example engineering cytokines to create an immune response against mutated self in cancer, or engineering cytokines create tolerogenic environments and engineering antigen delivery systems to inverse vaccinate against an autoimmune disease to re-establish immunological tolerance to self.

Speaker biography: Jeffrey Hubbell received his bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University in 1982, and his PhD from Rice University in 1986, both in chemical engineering. He started his academic career as a member of the chemical engineering faculty at the University of Texas, then at the California Institute of Technology.

Professor Hubbell next moved to Switzerland, where he initially served as a professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Institute for Biomedical Engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the University of Zurich. He moved to École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lusanne (EPFL) in 2003 to serve as founding director of the Institute of Bioengineering.

In addition to his membership in the National Academy of Engineering, Hubbell is the former president of the Society for Biomaterials. Hubbell also is an elected fellow of Biomaterials Science and Engineering, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.

Professor Hubbell designs materials to assemble in such a way that they can stimulate the immune systems to fight infection or malignancy, or turn off some aspects of the immune system to address auto-immune diseases such as type-1 diabetes. Hubbell has coined the term “immuno-modulatory materials” to describe this newly emerging field of research. Along with his associates, he holds 77 patents. An entrepreneurial materials scientist, Hubbell has founded three companies based on his research.

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