Skip to main content

John Wilson

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Associate Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Biomedical Engineering

Intellectual Neighborhoods

Research Focus

The Wilson Laboratory is working at the interface of engineering and immunology to improve human health. Our mission is to cure, detect, treat or prevent myriad disease through the design of novel molecularly engineered materials that interrogate the immune system in defined and specific manners. We are guided by the principle that the immune system must dictate therapeutic design requirements, and we turn to nature for inspiration to engineer highly modular and tunable materials to accommodate these criteria. By bringing together expertise in colloid and surface engineering, advanced polymerization techniques, cellular engineering and drug delivery, we are developing innovative therapeutic approaches that specifically target and tightly regulate the delivery of immunomodulatory cues to the organs, cells, and intracellular pathways of the immune system. By doing so, we are working towards advancement in the following areas:
Molecularly Engineered Materials for Biomedical Applications: Materials are at the core of our research – the ability to engineer a diversity of materials with tailored and well-defined properties is critical to critical to controlling biological phenomena. Our laboratory specializes in the design of novel bio- and nanomaterials using cutting-edge approaches, including controlled free radical polymerization (e.g., RAFT), self-assembling polymer thin films and colloids, and synthesis and bioconjugation of biomacromolecules.
Intracellular Delivery of Antigens and Molecular Adjuvants: We are engineering nanoparticle-based delivery systems that regulate the distribution of antigens and molecular adjuvants between intracellular compartments. Combined with research focused on understanding of how intracellular distribution and trafficking of immunotherapeutics influences inflammatory and immune responses, this work is leading to the design of multimodal and tunable delivery platforms for unique drug combinations that engage multiple and diverse immune signaling pathways. By eliciting more highly defined and tailored immune responses, these foundational technologies are enabling diverse applications in many diseases.
Engineering of Vaccine Colloids and Surfaces: Using innovative polymer and interfacial engineering approaches, we are integrating new functionalities and biological activities into many existing materials used in vaccine delivery (e.g., polymeric particles, liposomes, emulsions). Additionally, we are developing novel particles and thin films for augmenting immune responses and using them in new and unconventional ways.

Cancer Immunotherapy: We are addressing current challenges in cancer immunotherapy using a multi-faceted approach. First, we are developing new cancer vaccines based on pH-responsive nanoparticles that enable dual-delivery of tumor antigens and diverse immunostimulatory adjuvants. Second, we are engineering drug delivery systems for local modulation of immunosuppressive tumor microenvironments. Finally, we are developing innovative approaches for targeting immunomodulatory agents to specific immune cell types and leveraging these approaches to enhance penetration and accumulation of drugs in tumors.

Diabetes and Islet Transplantation: Our group is contributing to the diabetes challenge in the following ways. First, the foundational drug delivery technologies developed in our group are being explored for tolerance induction through combinatorial delivery of islet auto-antigens and immunomodulatory agents. Second, we are working to improve the outcome of pancreatic islet transplantation through molecularly re-engineering islet cell surfaces with nanostructured materials for controlled release of anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs.

Please see our website for more details:

Selected Publications:

For a full listing, click here

Wilson JT, Keller S, Manganiello MJ, Cheng C, Lee C-C, Opara C, Convertine AJ, Stayton PS. pH-responsive nanoparticle vaccines for dual-delivery of antigens and immunostimulatory oligonucleotides. ACS Nano 7:3912-3925 (2013).

Mets JM, Wilson JT, Cui W, Chaikof EL. An automated process for layer-by-layer assembly of polyelectrolyte multilayer thin films on viable cell aggregates. Advanced Healthcare Materials 2:266-270 (2013)

Wilson JT, Cui W, Kozlovskaya V, Kharlampieva E, Pan D, Qu Z, Mets J, Kumar V, Krishnamurthy V, Song Y, Tsukruk VV, Chaikof EL. Cell surface engineering with polyelectrolyte multilayer thin films. Journal of the American Chemical Society 133:7054-64 (2011).

Krishnamurthy VR, Wilson JT, Cui W, Song X, Lasanajak Y, Cummings RD, Chaikof EL. Chemoselective immobilization of peptides on abiotic and cell surfaces at controlled densities. Langmuir 26:7675-8 (2010).

Wilson JT, Haller CA, Qu Z, Cui W, Urlam MK, Chaikof EL. Biomolecular surface engineering of pancreatic islets with thrombmodulin. Acta Biomaterialia 6:1895-903 (2010).

Wilson JT, Krishnamurthy VR, Qu Z, Cui W, Chaikof EL. Non-covalent cell surface engineering with cationic graft copolymers. Journal of the American Chemical Society 51:18228-9 (2009).

Cui W, Wilson JT, Wen J, Angsana J, Qu Z, Haller CA, Chaikof EL. Thrombomodulin improves early outcomes after intraportal islet transplantation. American Journal of Transplantation 9: 1308-16 (2009).

Wilson JT, Cui W, Chaikof EL. Layer-by-layer assembly of a conformal nanothin PEG coating for intraportal islet transplantation. Nano Letters 8: 1940-1948 (2008).

Stabler CL, Sun X-L, Cui W, Wilson JT, Haller CA, Chaikof EL. Surface re-engineering of pancreatic islets with recombinant azido-thrombomodulin. Bioconjugate Chemistry 18: 1713-5 (2007).

Wilson JT, Cui W, Sun X-L, Tucker-Burden C, Weber CJ, Chaikof EL. In vivo biocompatibility and stability of a substrate-supported polymerizable membrane-mimetic film. Biomaterials 28: 609-617 (2007).

Dai Z, Wilson JT, Chaikof EL. Construction of PEGylated multilayer architectures via (strept)avidin/biotin interactions. Materials Science and Engineering C 27: 402-408 (2007).