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Wilmore Webley

Assistant Professor

Research areas include the creation of recombinant gas vesicle nanoparticles as display/delivery particles for various vaccine antigens and therapeutic biomolecules, immunoinformatics approach to discovery of efficacious vaccine antigens, understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying non-allergic asthma phenotype, and development of novel, effective therapeutics for refractory asthma.

Current Research
The Webley research group is broadly interested in infectious disease mechanisms and effective therapeutic interventions. My research group is using naturally produced nanoparticles to deliver important biomolecules and is specifically perfecting the technology as a multisubunit vaccine delivery platform. In combination with immunoinformatics tools for directed vaccine antigen discovery and immune simulation to predict their in-vivo impact, the current technology promises a more rapid advance and greater success in vaccine development and evaluation and our recent animal models have confirmed the success of this approach. A second area of ongoing research is unlocking the mechanisms involved in refractory asthma. We have developed important refractory asthma animal models, including those which are infection-mediated and is currently exploring novel therapeutic interventions or adjunctive care.

Gas vesicle nanoparticles (GVNP) are football-shaped prokaryotic organelles that are widely distributed among bacterial and archeal microorganisms where they naturally promote flotation and increase the availability of light and oxygen. We have demonstrated that GVNP are amenable to the integration of chlamydial proteins into their outer membrane and therefore represent a novel, nontoxic, stable, cost-effective vaccine delivery vehicle. GVNP production is easily scaled-up and they are simple to purify by hypotonic lysis of the host and can be readily concentrated by flotation, enhancing their intrinsic value for biotechnology applications.

Additional biotechnology applications of GVNP include stable display immune modulators such as growth factors, chemokines and cytokine agonists and inhibitors; delivery of oxygen into large tumors in conjunction with radiation therapy, increasing the local oxygen partial pressure around and within the tumor area and significantly increasing overall treatment response. Finally, GVNP could be exploited for targeted drug delivery to just about any tissue site in the body.

Asthma affects over 300 million people worldwide and current research shows that almost half of these patients have non-allergic asthma that is not controlled by inhaled corticosteroid treatment. Recent data from our research group and others confirm that these hard-to-control asthma cases are characterized by a different inflammatory phenotype, sometimes mediated by infectious microbes. The Webley lab has utilized animal models to characterize this asthma phenotype and demonstrated that a significant proportion of these patients can be successfully treated. Ongoing research attempts to fully understand the mechanisms underlying this asthma phenotype and developing novel therapeutics to treat this important subset of asthma patients.

Learn more at www.micro.umass.edu/webley/

Academic Background

  • BS (1994), Medical Technology, Northern Caribbean University, Mandeville Jamaica WI
  • MS (2000), Microbiology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA
  • PhD (2003), Microbiology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA
Katir K. Patel and Wilmore C. Webley. Respiratory Chlamydia Infection Induce Release of Hepoxilin A3 and Histamine Production by Airway Neutrophils. Front. Immunol.
Webley WC, Hahn DL. Infection-mediated asthma: etiology, mechanisms and treatment options, with focus on Chlamydia pneumoniae and macrolides. Respir Res. 2017 May 19;18(1):98.
Hahn DL, Webley W. Chronic Chlamydia pneumoniae lung infection: a neglected explanation for macrolide effects in wheezing and asthma? Lancet Respir Med. 2016 Mar;4(3):e8
Webley WC, Aldridge KL. Infectious asthma triggers: time to revise the hygiene hypothesis? rends Microbiol. 2015 Jul;23(7):389-91.
Patel KK, Webley WC. Evidence of Infectious Asthma Phenotype: Chlamydia-Induced Allergy and Pathogen-Specific IgE in a Neonatal Mouse Model. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 20;8(12)
Tawanna S. Childs and Wilmore C. Webley*. In-vitro Assessment of Halobacterial Gas Vesicles as a Chlamydia Vaccine Display and Delivery System. Vaccine. 2012 Sep 7;30(41):5942-8.
Katir K. Patel§ , Erica Anderson§, Paul S. Salva and Wilmore C. Webley*. The Prevalence and Identity of Chlamydia-Specific IgE in Children with Asthma and Other Chronic Respiratory Symptoms. Respiratory Research. 2012 Apr; 18;13 (1):32
David L. Hahn MD MS, Allison Schure MS, Katir Patel MS, Tawanna Childs, Eduard Drizik MS, Wilmore Webley PhD. Chlamydia pneumoniae-specific IgE is prevalent in asthma and is associated with disease severity. 2012 Apr; PLosOne. 7 (4): e35945.
Wilmore C. Webley* and David L. Hahn. Chlamydia pneumoniae Resides Primarily in The Lower Airway. Eur Respir J. 2011 Oct;38 (4):994-5.
Katir K. Patel§, Paul S. Salva and Wilmore C. Webley*. Colonization of Pediatric Lower Respiratory Tract with Genital Mycoplasma Species. Respirology. RES-10-463. 2011 Oct; 16 (7) 1081-7
Katir K Patel§, Alfin G Vicencio, Zhongfang Du, Kalliope Tsirilakis, Paul S Salva and Wilmore C. Webley*. Infectious Chlamydia pneumoniae is associated with elevated interleukin-8 and airway neutrophilia in children with refractory asthma. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2010 Dec; 29 (12):1093-8.
Wilmore C. Webley*, Yaphet Tilahun§, Kimberly Lay§, Katir Patel§, Elizabeth S. Stuart, Chester Andrzejewski, Paul S. Salva. Occurrence of Chlamydia trachomatis and Chlamydia pneumoniae in paediatric respiratory infections. The European respiratory journal, 2009. 33(2): p. 360-7.
Contact Info

Department of Microbiology
Life Sciences Laboratory N229
240 Thatcher Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9292

(413) 577-3139