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The Berkland Lab merges engineering and biological sciences to develop novel therapeutics and biomaterials. Our lab specifically designs molecules and materials matched to the particular disease. To achieve this goal, we utilize tools such as biomolecular engineering, polymer science, and small molecule modification.

For more information about a particular research area, Click on headings below to see our publications


Cancer immunotherapy

Cancer immunotherapy activates the host immune system to seek and destroy tumors. CPIs such as anti-PDL-1/PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 block immunosuppressive signals, thereby ‘releasing the brakes’ of the immune system. Solid tumors, however, typically do not respond well to CPIs and are only effective in the 20-30% patients with an already immunologically ‘hot’ tumor. Thus, we aim to recruit immune cells to tumor tissue, turning cold tumors hot and working synergistically with CPIs. Utilizing glatiramer acetate and bioengineered tumor-binding peptide approaches, we successfully improve immunostimulants regional retention and minimize systematic toxicity.

Designing Antigen-Specific Immunotherapies

In order to treat autoimmune diseases, our lab finely tunes physiochemical properties of antigen-specific immunotherapies in order to facilitate transfer of antigens from the injection site to lymph nodes or other target sites. By controlling the features of the antigen carrier, we can affect the placement of antigen (transport) and the patterns recognized by the immune systems (valency), which are two important parameters for inhibiting or reversing autoimmune diseases.

Sequestering cells to combat autoimmunity

The most effective immunotherapies work by either deleting immune cells or inhibiting their ability to migrate throughout the body. While these approaches can halt disease progression entirely for many patients, the risks of life-threatening side effects often outweigh therapeutic benefits. We have worked to develop novel biomaterials to selectively capture antigen-specific immune cells responsible for propagating autoimmunity to harness the efficacy of migration-targeted immunotherapies while minimizing risk.


Our lab employs a multitude of antigen-specific therapeutic strategies to modulate immune responses in the context of autoimmune diseases.  These strategies are designed to tolerize auto-reactive B-cells and T-cells to self-antigens while maintaining global immune function. In addition, our lab has studied the mechanism of action of glatiramer acetate (Copaxone® from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.) at the site of injection and we are exploring important structural features contributing to the drug mechanism.

Targeted Drug Delivery

Our lab specializes in delivering drugs to compartments of the body where their effect can be maximized while limiting side-effects. Several examples of our approach include pulmonary delivery of antibiotics for cystic fibrosis, anti-inflammatory drug-eluting rods for the treatment of traumatic brain injury, and long-lasting biomaterials for the management of intraocular pressure.


The largest hurdle in gene therapy development is delivery of genetic material to specific target cells. Two major limitations of gene delivery are low transfer efficacy of gene into a targeted cell and high cytotoxicity of the delivery vehicle. We aim to deliver DNA to target cells as safely as possible.