Seok Ki Choi, PhD

Research Projects

Project title: Shielded Oxime Nanoreactor for Wound Decontamination

  This is a DOD DTRA-sponsored contract project (12/2016–). It aims for the application of dendrimer technology for developing a device for the decontamination of external surfaces exposed to reactive organophosphates such as pesticides. Its major aims are to design and synthesize a series of oxime-conjugated dendrimers, and then to evaluate their efficiency for decontamination in model systems in vitro, and in vivo. Its team includes Seok Ki Choi, PhD (PI), Jessica O’Konek, PhD (Co-I), and Pamela Wong, PhD (Co-I) at MNIMBS.

Jessica O'Konek, PhD

Research Projects

Project title: Nanoemulsion Vaccine for Food Allergy

  The Vaccine project goal is to change the harmful allergic responses to specific foods toward a less harmful response that does not lead to anaphylaxis. Food allergies are largely caused by the inappropriate activation of specific types of immune responses called TH2- and IgE-mediated immunity. TH2 and IgE-driven immune activation leads to the clinical manifestations of allergy and anaphylaxis. We have developed a nanoemulsion-based vaccine platform that activates a different type of immune response (TH1) that does not lead to allergic reactions.  Based on this, we hypothesized that by immunizing with a vaccine that consists of nanoemulsion mixed with a particular food antigen, such as egg or peanut protein, we could re-educate an immune system to have a more balanced immune response that would not activate factors that cause allergic reactions. We now have demonstrated in multiple different murine models that the nanoemulsion vaccines can shift immune responses away from TH2 and IgE responses towards more moderate and desirable responses characterized by predominantly TH1 and reduced TH2 and IgE. We are currently characterizing the mechanisms of action of the nanoemulsion vaccine and determining correlates of protection against allergic reactions and anaphylaxis.  Using this type of approach, we believe that by shifting allergic immune responses to a food allergen away from a TH2 response towards a TH1 response that we can prevent allergic reactions and anaphylaxis and that this will allow for long-term protection against food allergies.  Ultimately, our goal is to develop a vaccine protocol that can be tailored to all patients with food allergies. (PI: Jessica O'Konek, PhD; Staff:  Katarzyna Janczak, Jeffrey Landers;  Current students:  Rishi Goel, Anna Mondrusov, Madeline Surace, Tiffanie Totten; Former Students: Elizabeth Fisk and Todor Gadjev)

Suhe Wang, MD, PhD

Research Projects:

Project title: Nanoemulsion compounds for the treatment of infectious diseases

      This project evaluates the hypothesis that new NE compounds of varying oil and surfactant composition will prevent infection and reduce inflammation in animal wound and burn models. Dr. Wang is the principal investigator on this grant and actively participating in the animal studies. The ultimate goal is to gain regulatory approval to commercialize NB-201 and make it available  for use in the treatment of wound infections by MDROs and other infectious organisms.  Our study in this area is currently supported by Defense Medical Research and Development Program, Military Infectious Diseases Applied Research Award.

 Project title: Nanoemulsion Adjuvant Development Program

     Some nanoemulsion compounds have proven effective as adjuvants for a range of exogenous antigens. The mechanism underlying the adjuvant activity is not fully defined, but is known to achieve enhanced humoral responses and systemic Th1-associated cellular immunity. As a co-investigator for the nanoemulsion adjuvant development program, Dr. Wang is involved in the design of experiments and the management of the rH5 mouse vaccine experiments. In these studies the optimal dose of antigen and/or adjuvant, as well as various buffer systems are investigated, and both cellular and humoral immune responses are analyzed. In addition, different immune responses through intranasal vs. intramuscular route are compared. This program is currently funded by NIAID.

 Additional Research Interest:  Apoptosis in autoimmune diseases, thyroiditis in particular

     Autoimmune (Hashimoto’s) thyroiditis is characterized by lymphocytic infiltration of the parenchyma, causing a dense accumulation of lymphocytes, plasma cells, and macrophages with germinal center formation and thyroid enlargement. Although the pathogenesis of autoimmune thyroiditis is not entirely clear, studies have demonstrated that increasing the local production of inflammatory cytokines in the thyroid microenvironment plays a critical role in facilitating apoptosis in thyrocytes, leading to autoimmune thyroiditis. My studies in this area are mainly focused on how apoptosis occurs and how to take advantage of it for treatment of autoimmune diseases.