University of California, San Diego
NanoEngineering gone viral: Plant virus-based therapeutics
Nanoscale engineering is revolutionizing the way we detect, prevent, and treat diseases. Viruses are
playing a special role in these developments because they can function as prefabricated nanoparticles naturally evolved to deliver cargos to cells and tissues. We have developed a library of plant virus-based nanoparticles and through structure-function studies we are beginning to understand how to tailor these materials appropriately for biomedical applications. Through chemical biology, we have developed virus-based delivery systems carrying medically-relevant cargo enabling tissue-specific imaging and treatment. A particular exciting avenue is the development of plant virus-like particle platforms for cancer immunotherapy. The idea pursued is an ‘in situ vaccination’ to stimulate local and systemic anti-tumor immune responses to treat established disease, and most importantly to induce immune memory to protect patients from outgrowth of metastasis and recurrence of the disease. Another avenue is the repurposing of plant viruses to enable plant health; we employ principles of nanomedicine to target pesticides residing deep in the soil therefore challenging to reach using contemporary pesticides. I will highlight engineering design principles employed to synthesize the next-generation nanotherapeutics using plant virus-based platform technologies, and I will discuss the evaluation of such in preclinical mouse models and canine patients as well as in the agricultural arena.
Dr. Steinmetz is a Professor of NanoEngineering at the University of California, San Diego (07/2018-present). She also is the founding Director of the Center for Nano-ImmunoEngineering (nanoIE). She started her independent career at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (in 2010), where she was promoted through the ranks of Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor. Dr. Steinmetz trained at The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA where she was a NIH K99/R00 awardee and AHA post-doctoral fellow (2007-2010); she obtained her PhD in Bionanotechnology from the University of East Anglia where she prepared her dissertation as a Marie Curie Early Stage Training Fellow at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK (2004-2007). Her early training was at the RWTH-Aachen University in Germany.
Dr. Steinmetz’s research program focuses on the engineering of plant virus-based nanomaterials targeting human and plant health applications, such as drug delivery, molecular imaging, and next-generation vaccines and immunotherapies. Dr. Steinmetz has authored more than 150 journal articles (H index 48). Dr. Steinmetz is a standing member of the NIH Nanotechnology study section. She serves on the Editorial Board of Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs) on Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology; she serves on the Advisory Editorial Board for the ACS journals ACS Nano and Molecular Pharmaceutics as well as the RSC Journal
of Materials Chemistry B. Dr. Steinmetz is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC, since 2018), a Fellow the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE, since 2017); she has won many awards, including an American Cancer Society (ACS) Research Scholar Award (2016), and a Young Innovator of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society (2015).