Dr. Julie Champion’s lab focuses on designing proteins that enable the delivery of large molecules into cells for human therapeutics.
The primary goal of the lab is to design technology for therapeutics that treat diseases like cancer, autoimmune diseases, and infectious diseases. The lab has developed protein nanoparticles to improve vaccines and methods for the intracellular delivery of therapeutic proteins that alter cell behavior and achieve a therapeutic outcome. In addition, the group has designed anti-inflammatory protein therapeutics that use a protein nanoparticle delivery system and self-assembled protein-inorganic supraparticles for enzyme immobilization that can improve enzyme activity and stability for industrial applications.
The lab’s latest development is a simple, single-component, low-cost, non-toxic method that has the potential to revolutionize drug delivery by enabling delivery of a range of nucleic acids and proteins. Current methods for introducing proteins and nucleic acids into cells for therapeutic, manufacturing, or research purposes require a carrier to achieve functional intracellular delivery. The existing carriers, however, have high costs and low efficiency or can be toxic. Dr. Champion’s lab has developed a hydrophobic ion complex capable of intracellular delivery without toxicity. This new method is significantly less expensive and does not require refrigeration.
“Our focus has been on creating a method that enables drug companies to get their biologic drugs into cells so they can easily identify which ones are most effective,” said Dr. Champion. “While previous approaches have required complicated steps, complicated is not good for applications in the real world. Our latest technology is a ‘mix and go’ approach that uses just one component plus the drug cargo, so we just put them together in water and they assemble all on their own. It has the potential to enable drug companies to develop new DNA, RNA, or protein drugs, or develop rescue drugs that have promise but could not previously be delivered.”
In addition to her research, Dr. Champion is committed to outreach in STEM education and expanding research opportunities to women and traditionally excluded populations in STEM.
- Innovative drug delivery methods: Creating delivery methods that will enable new therapeutics and vaccines that previously could not be used because they could not access intracellular locations in the body.
- New nanoparticles: Engineering protein nanoparticles that can trigger protective immune responses for diseases that do not currently have effective vaccines available.
- Enabling new treatments for diseases: Using protein engineering and rational design to synthesize novel materials for therapeutic and biocatalytic applications.
- Biomaterial design: Developing safe, simple, and low-risk materials for new drug and vaccine delivery methods.
- Investigation of cell interactions: Learning how cells interact with biomaterials.
- Evaluation in animal models: Determining the efficacy and function in animal models.
- Standing Member, National Institutes of Health, Gene and Drug Delivery Study Section (2019–2023)
- 2nd Vice Chair, 1st Vice Chair, Chair, Past Chair, Materials Engineering and Sciences Division, American Institute of Chemical Engineers (2019–2023)
- Co-Chair, Gordon Research Conference on Pre-Clinical Form and Formulation (2019–2023)
- Co-Section Editor, Drug Delivery Section of Current Opinion in Colloid and Interface Science (2018–present)