The Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) will transform life science discoveries into candidate products and services in collaboration with industry to improve human health and well being. IALS extends specific identified research strengths at UMass through its three centers: Models to Medicine Center, Center for Bioactive Delivery, and Center for Personalized Health Monitoring
Models to Medicine Center leverages mechanistic insights into molecular pathways implicated in cell health and in disease pathology to identify novel drug targets and therapeutic candidates. Specific translational research themes include:
Understand, manipulate and design in vitro model systems at the cellular, molecular, and tissue levels for applications in disease and regenerative medicine. Combines expertise in cellular engineering, tissue engineering, molecular self-assembly, mechanics, high-throughput screening, biopolymer materials, and materials design principles.
Understand fundamental cellular processes and gain insight into the dysfunctions that result from defects in these processes. Areas of expertise include cell division and chromosome segregation, molecular motor proteins, cytoskeleton regulation and dynamics, cell growth and renewal, and cancer cell biology.
Focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying reproduction and embryonic development and the effect of the environment in those processes, as well as, environmental factors and toxins that disrupt developmental processes, either in the embryo or later in life, can result in a range of reproductive disorders.
Broad expertise using in vitro models mimicking the complexity of tumors in vivo, working with animal tumor models, analyzing human tissues and evaluating the epidemiology of cancer risk.
Develop and use models of diseases of people and domestic animals including autoimmune disease (aplastic anemia and multiple sclerosis) and malignant disease. Study diverse aspects of microbial biology including protein folding, DNA replication, mechanisms of quorum sensing and chemotaxis, production of and response to antimicrobial agents, identification of virulence factors as well as pathways that lead to symbiosis, and novel biochemical pathways that may serve as drug targets.
Focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying reproduction and embryonic development, the formation and function of the nervous system, and related disease processes. Employs a range of in vitro and in vivo model systems that allow the use of forward and reverse genetics, epigenetics, genomics, pharmacology, physiology, and behavioral assays to probe gene function in normal and disease states.
Seek to understand and engineer membrane processes, materials, and proteins, with a variety of fundamental and translational goals. Includes develops novel systems for high-throughput screening for drugs targeting membrane proteins, and novel molecules for delivering drugs across membranes. Also developing tools to overcome the challenges of membrane protein studies and determining mechanisms of membrane proteins that are potential antibiotic targets.
Seeks to understand, manipulate and design microbial systems at the molecular, cellular and community levels for translational applications in human health and disease. To achieve this goal, MMID faculty combine expertise in genomics, microbiology, synthetic and systems biology, host-microbe interactions, infectious diseases, biocolloids, surface science and computational modeling. Through extensive collaborations within MMID, these capabilities have been integrated to seek innovative solutions to unsolved problems in human health and disease.
Studies the biology of skeletal and cardiac muscle during development, aging, and pathogenesis with a variety of expertise in all aspects of muscle biology, including: molecular, cellular and structural biology, energetics and muscle physiology, from the interactions of myosin and actin to single biophysics to human MRI studies. The theme’s primary interests center on atrophy and contractile alterations with exercise and aging.
Combines expertise in functional genomics, systems and computational biology, with cellular imaging, biochemistry, microbial and plant physiology, evolution and genetics to address key problems in renewable energy, climate change, sustainability, and food security.
Improves understanding leading to new targets for small molecule modulators, and hence new therapeutic strategies against many of these diseases. Targeting protein homeostasis components also affords the opportunity to develop new anti-infectives, either by intervening with the protein homeostasis components of the pathogen, or targeting components of the host network that are hijacked by a pathogen.
Center for Bioactive Delivery creates new ways to deliver “The right drug to the right place: by creating novel delivery platforms for small and large molecules.” Faculty in CBD have developed a wide range of delivery platforms which they match to bioactive molecular delivery needs based on fundamental design principles. These carrier platforms include nanoemulsions, nanoparticles, hybrid particles, bacteria, and hydrogels. Within these broad platforms lipid-based emulsions, metals, polymers, proteins, and/or polysaccharides are being used to develop new carriers. Applications include novel, nanomaterial-enabled, cell specific delivery for cancer and autoimmune diseases, and nanoparticle-based, high content cell-based screening technology to rapidly identify drug mechanisms. Specific translational research themes include:
Proteins, Peptides & Antibodies
Develop robust capabilities to deliver peptides, proteins, and antibodies to targeted cells and tissues. The team is tackling the challenge of protecting protein-based biologics from protease degradation and deliver them to targeted cells and tissues, and also to specific intracellular compartments. These approaches open up opportunities in “undruggable” targets such as targeting K-Ras and in enhancing the efficiencies of protein-based therapies such as in lysosomal storage diseases.
Nucleic Acid Delivery
Focused on developing platform technologies for the delivery of nucleic acids inside cells. This team is particularly focused on developing efficient delivery vehicles that exhibit high transfection efficacies and low toxicities. The aim here is to develop toolkits that impact gene expression, gene knockdown and genome editing. An example involves the delivery of Cas9 coupled to guide RNA to target DNA modification of specific genes.
Cell Based Therapies
Develop and utilize novel delivery technologies to modify cells that are used for a variety of therapies. Examples include ongoing work to modify bacteria to invade tumor tissue and deliver payloads designed to kill or arrest the growth of the tumor. Additionally, strategies are being developed to use delivery technologies to modify cells of the immune system for adoptive transfer into a syngeneic host. The aim is to develop efficient ex vivo approaches to manipulating cellular responses and utilize them in a variety of therapeutic approaches.
Small Molecule Delivery
Understand the self-assembly of carrier molecules and utilize them to develop efficient delivery vehicles for small molecules and nutraceuticals. These molecules are non-covalently encapsulated in carriers or developed in a pro-drug format. Strategies for controlled release and targeted delivery to specific cells and tissues are being developed. Impact areas include oncology, liver diseases such as NASH, and food-based products such as nutraceuticals.
Combinations and Interfaces
CBD recognizes enormous opportunities at the interface of these cargo classifications. For example, combination of small molecule encapsulation with antibodies provide opportunities in developing innovative and impactful alternates to antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) (Bioconjugate Chem. 2015, 26, 2198–2215). Similarly, combining the delivery of proteins and nucleic acids present opportunities in novel cell-based therapies, including in genome editing strategies such TALEN and CRISPR. CBD investigators are collaboratively targeting these opportunities at the interface of different technology platforms and cargoes.
Center for Personalized Health Monitoring seeks to tackle real-world problems in the emerging field of digital healthcare, wearable sensor technologies, and personalized, precision healthcare delivery, interfacing closely with provider networks, hospitals, and industry across the Massachusetts Commonwealth, and the world. A wide-range of critical problem-focused research areas include:
- On-Body Biomarker Sensing
- Biomedical Devices & Device Manufacturing
- Healthy Aging
- Fall Prevention & Detection
- Technologies of Addiction Prevention
- Sexual Health Equity
- Sleep Monitoring & Measurement
- Health Self-Management
- Environmental Sensing & Design
- And more!
In addition, CPHM provides an industry collaborative facility wherein industry can work directly with our staff and researchers, and utilize cutting-edge UMass Core Facilities to validate current and develop next-generation digital health technologies and products. We custom create validation methods of health monitoring technologies to the specific needs of the wearable activity sensor industry.
Our group offers solutions for improvements in accuracy of digital devices at the human-device interface, in clinical workflow, and home-health integration, as well as, develops specific algorithms to interpret and apply sensor data, opening the door for major new discoveries and advances in digital health and wearable health technologies.