The Steinmetz Lab’s mission is to push to new frontiers in human, veterinary and plant health through design, development and testing of materials and biologics derived from plant viruses. Our vision is the translation of promising candidates into clinical and commercial applications. Our approach is to re-design and re-purpose naturally occurring nanoparticles derived from plant viruses.
Next-generation nanotechnology depends upon the capacity to precisely alter size and shape of nanostructured features with temporal and spatial control. Nanoscale self-assembly is a technique that nature masters with atomic precision; using this principle, we turned toward the study and application of plant viruses as an approach to generate highly structured nanoparticles with new functionalities. Viruses are playing a special role in nanotechnology, because they can function as prefabricated nanoparticles naturally evolved to deliver cargos and/or interact with cells and tissues in various environments. We have developed a library of plant virus-based nanoparticles and through structure-function studies we are beginning to understand how to tailor these nanomaterials appropriately for biomedical applications and agriculture.
Research is organized into several interconnected research thrusts:
- Plant viral drug and gene delivery.
- Vaccines and immunotherapies.
- Molecular tools for theranostics (diagnostics and therapy).
- Agricultural nanotechnology.
- Engineered living materials (ELMs).
Molecular farming and plant virus-based nanoparticles
Vaccines and Immunotherapy
Plant virus cancer immunotherapy. We demonstrated that nanoparticlesfrom a harmless plant virus, namely Cowpea mosaic virus (CPMV) stimulate apotent antitumor immune response in mouse models of melanoma, ovarian cancer,breast cancer, colon cancer and glioma. When thesenanoparticles are used as cancer immunotherapy and applied by intratumoralinjection, systemic and durable anti-tumor efficacy is achieved withimmunological memory to prevent metastatic disease and/or recurrence . Ongoing trials in companiondogs with melanoma indicate that the potent antitumor efficacy of the plantvirus-derived nanoparticles can be replicated in these animals . It isimportant to understand that the nanoparticle-stimulated immune-mediatedanti-tumor response is not limited totreatment of the identified, injectable tumor; our data indicate that the treatmentinduces a systemic, immune-mediated anti-tumor response against unrecognizedmetastases and protect patients from recurrence of the disease.
Drug delivery targeting human health
Molecular imaging and theranostics
Precision farming and agricultural nanotechnology
Engineered Living Materials
This research is carried out under our UC San Diego Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). We seek to develop methods to integrate engineered living matter, cells and plants, with polymeric materials. In doing so, we will create new composite materials that are responsive to diverse stimuli and capable of generating complex, genetically encoded material outputs. Our long-term research goals are to develop techniques that will enable the creation of materials at the living/non-living interface, with the potential for use in biosynthetic electronics, chemical threat decontamination, therapeutic synthesis/delivery, and soft robotics, among other applications.
Find out more here: https://mrsec.ucsd.edu/living-materials