ChE Seminar Series: Engineering strategies to modulate the gut microbiome and immune system


3:00 pm-3:55 pm
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James J. Moon, Ph.D.
John Gideon Searle Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences,
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
University of Michigan

Title: Engineering strategies to modulate the gut microbiome and immune system
James J. Moon 1,2,3,*
1 Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
2 Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
3 Biointerfaces Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
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Abstract: Cancer immunotherapy is now considered the fourth pillar of cancer therapy, joining the ranks of surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. However, only a small subset of cancer patients responds to cancer immunotherapy. Thus, new approaches are needed to amplify anti-tumor immunity, to convert cold tumor into hot tumor, and to potentiate immunotherapies with minimal immune-related adverse events. The gut microbiome has recently emerged as the next frontier in drug development; however, it remains unclear how to effectively alter gut microbiota for treating various diseases, including cancer.

Here, we present new biomaterial-based strategies for altering the gut microbiome and amplifying anti-tumor immune responses in a safe and effective manner. We are developing new dietary fiber-based biomaterials for in situ modulation of the gut microbiome for augmenting local and systemic immune responses. We will present the therapeutic potential of our gut modulation approach in the context of improving the safety and efficacy of immune checkpoint blockers. In our second research thrust, we are developing a new nanoparticle platform for systemic delivery of STING (stimulator of IFN genes) agonists. While local STING activation can convert cold tumor into hot tumor, it has been challenging to develop STING agonists that can treat disseminated cancer due to their toxicity. Here, we will present our next-generation STING agonists that allow for systemic cancer therapy with potent efficacy, favorable pharmaceutical properties, and acceptable safety profiles. Our biomaterial-based strategies may offer powerful and convenient approaches to regulate the immune system as potential therapies for cancer and other diseases.

Bio: Dr. James Moon is John Gideon Searle Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His interdisciplinary research program aims to develop novel biomaterials-based strategies to advance fundamental understanding of the immune system, with the ultimate goal of improving patients’ lives with effective vaccines and immunotherapies. Dr. Moon has published over 100 research articles, including those published in Nature Materials, Nature Medicine, Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Biomedical Engineering, Nature Reviews Materials, and Science Translational Medicine. He has 16 pending/approved U.S. and international patent applications, and his novel nano-vaccine delivery technologies have led to two new start-up companies. Dr. Moon contribution to the field has been recognized with numerous awards, including AAPS Emerging Leader Award, NSF CAREER Award, and DOD-CDMRP Career Development Award. Dr. Moon received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. from Rice University, and he completed his postdoctoral training at MIT.


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