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.
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/
- 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