IBBR Fellows

IBBR Scientists. Experts exploring new horizons. And advancing understanding.

IBBR unites distinguished scientists from the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Our Fellows come together across disciplines and institutions to discover tomorrow's biotechnology solutions.

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Name Profile
Alexander Andrianov
Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research

Dr. Alexander Andrianov is a leader in the field of polyphosphazenes with a long-standing interest in applications of polymers for drug delivery systems and biomaterials. He has been involved in all aspects of technology development and commercialization, including product advancement from the research laboratory to manufacturing and clinical trials. Dr. Andrianov has served in various executive and managerial roles at a number of biotechnology companies focusing on drug delivery technologies and biomaterials, and he has worked as a biotechnology consultant to industrial, academic, and global health organizations.

William Bentley
Fischell Department of Bioengineering

Dr. William E. Bentley develops and uses molecular tools to engineer cells for enhanced function (synthetic biology) and to open “communication” pathways for innovative device design and fabrication (bioelectronics). His laboratory has engineered cells and small consortia of cells to execute advanced functions such as detecting and killing pathogens. His lab has also adapted natural bacterial signaling pathways to build components and systems that enable bidirectional communication between devices and biological systems.

Robert Brinson
Biomolecular Measurement Division

Dr. Robert Brinson uses biophysical measurements to define the structure and dynamics of nucleic acids, proteins, and glycoproteins, with a specific focus on biotherapeutics. In particular, he seeks to harmonize and to translate nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods for biopharmaceutical applications and to push the limits of NMR methodologies to define the critical quality attributes of higher order structure for protein drug products.

James Culver
Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture

The research focus in Dr. James Culver’s laboratory centers on understanding virus biology and its role in disease, and applying these insights into engineering viruses and other biological components for application in nano-based systems and devices. The Culver lab uses numerous scientific approaches and collaborates with scientists in fields ranging from structural biology to microfabrication. The lab’s primary goal is to utilize discoveries in virus biology to develop new approaches for their control and application.

Frank Delaglio
Biomolecular Measurement Division

Dr. Frank Delaglio develops computational methods for extracting useful information from Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) data to support development and manufacturing of drugs and vaccines, and to support basic research in structural biology. His current focus is on development of approaches for characterization of the high order structure of biologics, so that these important therapeutics can continue to be safe and effective, and become more available and affordable. In the NMR community, Dr. Delaglio is best known as the developer of the NMRPipe software system (http://www.ibbr.umd.edu/nmrpipe), which has been cited over 12,000 times in peer-reviewed literature and has been used to help generate over 40% of the protein structures ever measured by NMR.

Edward Eisenstein
Fischell Department of Bioengineering

The Eisenstein laboratory is building next-generation bioenergy plants with enhanced capacity to manage biotic and abiotic challenges. Their strategy is to derive mechanistic information from multidisciplinary tools, ranging from molecular and structural biology, to plant, systems and synthetic biology, as well as protein design and engineering, to develop superior traits. These improvements are being introduced into plants via genome engineering in order to extend our diminishing supply of fossil fuels. In addition, Dr. Eisenstein is applying systems engineering principles to improve the development of protein biopharmaceuticals. 

Thomas Fuerst
Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

Dr. Fuerst’s research is focused on the development of next-generation vaccines and protein-based therapeutics for infectious disease and cancer. The Fuerst group brings together an assemblage of scientific disciplines including virology, immunology, analytical chemistry, cell biology, structural biology, computational biology, and protein engineering. The multidisciplinary programs include:  (1) a structure-based vaccine design program focused on enveloped viruses, (2) a scaffold-based protein therapeutics program focused on cancer targets, and, (3) an immunoadjuvant and delivery program focused on polyphosphazene-based macromolecular delivery systems.

Travis Gallagher
Biomolecular Measurement Division

Dr.  Travis Gallagher’s research is focused on measurement strategies that provide atomic-level structural descriptions of proteins and their interactions. By combining diffraction-based methods with other biophysical tools, Dr.  Gallagher develops methods for imaging and analysis of biomolecules. Of particular interest are proteins with applications as healthcare measurement standards, and their conformational dynamics. Immunotherapies, and especially antibodies (Abs), are key areas of biopharmaceutical development. These medicines depend crucially on verifiable stability and batch-to-batch reproducibility, creating a need for standards and reliable measurements.

Alexander Grishaev
Biomolecular Measurement Division

Dr. Alexander Grishaev’s laboratory focuses on integrative structural biology and deriving biomolecular structures by combining experimental data from several complementary, biophysical techniques within a computational framework that optimally restrains the conformation space. The lab’s primary experimental approaches are solution X-ray and neutron scattering, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. They aim to design methodologies for maximizing the information content and fidelity of interpretation of the observables attainable by these techniques. An important part of the Grishaev lab’s work is mining information in structural databases to improve force fields for protein/RNA/DNA structure refinement.

S. Saif Hasan
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

The Hasan laboratory focuses on elucidating the structural basis of biological trafficking by membrane protein complexes and of the hijacking of these host complexes during assembly of epidemic causing virus such as SARS-CoV-2. We use state-of-the-art single particle cryoEM and X-ray crystallography to perform atomic-level investigations of how viral proteins hijack host metabolic machinery. A central focus of our laboratory is the structural basis of molecular mimicry that drives coronavirus assembly.Our virus focused investigations will elucidate commonalities in how phylogenetically unrelated viruses exploit a few select host membrane proteins to achieve progeny propagation, an approach which could one day lead to the development of broad spectrum anti-virals.

Osnat Herzberg
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Dr. Osnat Herzberg is a structural biologist interested in the relationship between the function and structure of proteins and how protein-ligand interactions can guide drug discovery. The Herzberg lab uses X-ray crystallography and other biophysical, biochemical, and cellular approaches to better understand various experimental systems.

Jeffrey Hudgens
Biomolecular Measurement Division

Dr. Jeffrey Hudgens investigates the precision of hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDX-MS) and its application to the measurement of protein-ligand and glycoprotein-ligand interactions, the dynamical structures of mAbs, lipid-protein complexes, and membrane protein interactions. In addition to these fundamental determinations of the relationship between biomolecular structure and function, Dr. Hudgens also invents new apparatus and methods that improve HDX-MS methodology, especially as related to biopharmaceutical analysis. These improvements and insights will enable HDX-MS to be used in comparability studies of innovator and biosimilar drugs, thus advancing biopharmaceutical development and regulation.

Zvi Kelman
Biomolecular Measurement Division

Dr. Zvi Kelman’s research is focused on developing tools and reagents for the labeling of biomolecules with stable isotopes to support biophysical and bioanalytical measurements. The NIST Biomolecular Labeling Laboratory also provides support to external users through a proposal process. The Kelman laboratory has the equipment and reagents necessary for production, purification, and characterization of labeled proteins and other biomolecules, including peptides and nucleic acids. The lab also studies the mechanism of DNA replication in archaea and other organisms. Through biochemical, structural, and genetic approaches, the lab studies the initiation and elongation phases of DNA replication using the thermophilic archaeon Thermococcus kodakarensis as a model organism.

Yuxing Li
Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Dr. Yuxing Li’s lab studies how B cells, a critical part of the immune system, respond to viral infection, and applies these findings toward antibody discovery and the development of vaccines and therapeutics to treat viral infections. Dr. Li’s work has focused on defining broadly neutralizing antibody responses elicited by HIV-1 envelope glycoproteins during natural infections and in animal models. These findings contributed substantially to the in-depth understanding of HIV broadly neutralizing antibody response and the subsequent discovery of broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies targeting the HIV envelope glycoprotein receptor binding site, and have important implications for vaccine and immunotherapeutics development.

Yanxin Liu
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Research in Dr. Yanxin Liu's lab focuses on the mechanistic understanding of chaperone mediated protein folding and translocation. We employ an integrative approach that combines biophysics, biochemistry, structural biology, and computational modeling. In particular, we are specialized in emerging technologies of high-resolution single-particle cryo-electron microscopy, cryo-electron tomography, and large-scale atomistic molecular dynamics simulation.

Alexander MacKerell
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Dr. Alexander MacKerell’s research involves the development and application of computational methods to investigate the relationships of structure and dynamics to function in a range of biological and chemical systems. These efforts include empirical force field development, implementation of novel sampling methodologies, understanding the physical forces driving the structure and dynamics of proteins, nucleic acids, and carbohydrates, and computer-aided drug design (CADD) studies and methodology development. The MacKerell lab works closely with experimentalists in the area of drug development to provide detailed interpretation of experimental data while simultaneously refining and developing novel theoretical approaches.

John Marino
Biomolecular Measurement Division

Dr. John Marino’s research is focused on developing nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and other biophysical measurements to accurately and precisely define the conformational structure, stability, and dynamics of biomolecules and their interactions at a molecular level. In addition to enabling fundamental insights into biomolecular structure and function, Dr. Marino’s work provides innovative, yet practical methods that can form the basis for a robust measurement infrastructure that supports biopharmaceutical development and regulation.

Roy Mariuzza
Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

Research in Dr. Roy Mariuzza’s laboratory focuses on understanding how immune system cell surface receptors recognize molecules. Several classes of recognition molecules are under study: antibodies, T cell receptors (TCRs), natural killer (NK) cell receptors, and variable lymphocyte receptors (VLRs). 

Curtis Meuse
Biomolecular Measurement Division

Dr. Curt Meuse’s research focuses on the development of accurate and precise techniques for the characterization of higher order structure of biopharmaceuticals. Biopharmaceuticals represent a valuable and important sector of the US economy. Advanced methods are required to quantify the molecular composition and conformation of industrially relevant protein products such as protein biopharmaceuticals, protein arrays, membrane proteins for research purposes, and protein standards. Such measurements allow comparisons of protocols and determination of mechanisms of action. Dr. Meuse’s work focuses on the development and standardization of methods to characterize biologically active states, to measure structural changes, and to explore physical processes such as aggregation and binding that contribute to biological inactivation of proteins. 

Ella Mihailescu
Biomolecular Measurement Division

Dr. Ella Mihailescu’s research is focused on developing biophysical methods for investigations of the structural interactions of membrane proteins, membrane-active peptides, and lipophilic drug molecules with lipid membranes. A major effort in the Mihailescu laboratory is directed toward advancing precision measurement of membrane protein structures in engineered lipid platforms.

John Moult
Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

Research in Dr. John Moult’s laboratory is focused on computational modeling of biological systems, including: investigating the effects of missense single nucleotide variants on protein structure and function to elucidate their role in human disease; integrating knowledge of the biological mechanisms underlying the relationship between human genetic variation and disease, particularly complex trait diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and Crohn’s disease; using novel neural network architectures derived from deep biological knowledge to probe aspects of disease mechanism, including the evaluation of potential drug targets and the best choice of drug for any patient, given their genome sequence; and conducting large-scale community experiments to assess and advance the state of the art in areas of computational biology, particularly genome interpretation and protein structure modeling

Silvia Muro
Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research

Dr. Silvia Muro’s research focuses on how molecules are transported within cells using intracellular transport systems, and applications of this research are being used to develop controlled delivery of therapeutics to precise disease targets. Targeted delivery of therapeutic compounds is critical to improving the effectiveness of drugs and reducing undesirable side effects. Currently, most therapeutics do not have the ability to specifically target tissues or cells and, as a result, they are rapidly cleared from the body and are less effective. Therapeutic molecules can be modified for improved targeting by attaching them to nanoscale carrier molecules like antibodies, peptides, or nanoparticles. These modifications allow therapeutic molecules to enter specific cells through the endocytic vesicular transport system and can improve the delivery of therapeutic agents within cells and across cellular layers of tissues or organs.

Daniel Nelson
Department of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Nelson is an internationally recognized researcher in the field of antimicrobial discovery. The alarming increase of multidrug-resistant bacteria, the emergence of new pathogens, and the desire to reduce/eliminate antimicrobial use in agriculture products have prompted new antimicrobial discovery initiatives. Researchers seek to identify and develop alternative antimicrobial therapeutics that are not susceptible to traditional antibiotic resistance mechanisms. The Nelson lab harnesses peptidoglycan hydrolase enzymes, called endolysins, from bacteriophage and applies them to bacterial pathogens. These enzymes act rapidly on contact to degrade the bacterial cell wall of both animal and human pathogens, resulting in death of the bacterial cell.

Vincent Njar
Department of Pharmacology

Dr. Vincent Njar has a long-standing interest in the rational discovery and development of small molecules as anti-cancer agents. He is a leading medicinal chemist and oncopharmacologist who has made significant discoveries in the development of novel small molecules with potential for the treatment of a variety of cancers – in particular, breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. Dr. Njar invented novel chemical reactions for the synthesis of novel inhibitors of a number of important anti-cancer targets. He is perhaps best known for his development of RAMBAs – retinoic acid metabolism blocking agents, and the molecule Galeterone, which is commercially available as a unique research reagent.

Gilad Ofek
Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research

Dr. Gilad Ofek’s research interests lie in understanding the structural organization of viruses and their recognition and neutralization by molecules of the immune system. Of particular interest are the Ebola and HIV-1 viruses. The Ofek lab employs the tools of structural biology to better understand immunological function and the pathways by which effective, and ineffective, antibody responses develop against these viruses in the context of natural infection and vaccination. Durable, broadly protective immune responses are of special interest, as are mechanisms by which viruses escape immune recognition and neutralization.

John Orban
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Dr. Orban’s research interests focus on the area of protein structural biology and design, particularly in understanding how the malleability of protein folds relates to biological function. High field solution NMR spectroscopy and other biophysical and biochemical methods are employed in the laboratory.

Gregory Payne
Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research

The last century witnessed spectacular advances in both microelectronics and biotechnology yet there remains considerable opportunity to create synergies between the two.  The Payne laboratory aims to fabricate high-performance material systems to span the capabilities of biology and information technology. Through an extensive network of international collaborations their group focuses on two primary areas of research: 1) biofabrication of the bio-device interface and 2) redox-based molecular communication for bio-device "connectivity".

Brian Pierce
Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research

Dr. Brian Pierce’s laboratory develops and applies computer algorithms to better understand how the immune system recognizes pathogens and cancer, and his lab is particularly interested in antibodies, T cell receptors, and vaccine design. 

Edvin Pozharskiy
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Dr. Pozharskiy's area of scientific expertise is structural biology, with a major focus on protein X-ray crystallography. Throughout his career as a protein crystallographer, Dr. Pozharskiy has focused on structural mechanisms of molecular recognition in a range of biomolecular systems, including small molecules, protein-DNA, and protein-protein interactions. He has also contributed to methodological aspects of protein crystallography, including computational methods, structure validation, and crystallization methods. As a molecular biophysicist, Dr. Pozharskiy has expertise in membrane biophysics and protein thermodynamics, including the study of cationic lipids and their DNA complexes. He utilizes a variety of biophysical techniques, such as dynamic light scattering, protein fluorescence and fluorescence anisotropy, differential scanning fluorimetry, and isothermal titration calorimetry. 

John Schiel
Biomolecular Measurement Division

Biomanufacturing and characterization of the ever-increasing cadre of complex therapeutics (protein therapeutics, biologics, cell, and gene therapies) are approaching the point at which disruptive technology may be necessary to advance next generation drugs. With each molecular class come new challenges in the elucidation of structure, mechanism of action, stability, and immunogenicity, as well as regulatory considerations that must be addressed to ensure safety and efficacy. Dr. Schiel develops innovative approaches to the production, characterization, and de-risking of innovative next generation biotherapeutics. His research utilizes a wide variety of instrumentation including high-resolution mass spectrometry, one- and two-dimensional, ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography, capillary electrophoresis, and surface plasmon resonance.

Vitalii Silin
Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research

Dr. Vitalii Silin is a physicist with a wide interdisciplinary background that includes spectroscopy, optics, electrochemistry, neutron reflectometry (NR), electron microscopy (EM), biophysics and biochemistry. He studies the structure and function of integral membrane proteins (IMPs) and peptides imbedded into phospholipid bilayers. Dr. Silin’s laboratory uses a platform developed at NIST and IBBR based on tethered bilayer phospholipid membranes (tBLMs) and synchronized surface plasmon resonance/electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (SPR/EIS) measurements, as well as NR and cryogenic EM, to study membrane active biomolecules.

Arlin Stoltzfus
Biosystems & Biomaterials Division

Dr. Stoltzfus's research addresses issues in molecular evolution, bioinformatics, and evolutionary theory that are amenable to computer-based approaches. The group explores models and tests hypotheses, develops software, and participates in community efforts to improve interoperability. A major ongoing interest is understanding the role of mutation in evolution, an area where the group has developed novel theory and presented novel results on the foundational issue of how biases in mutation influence the course of evolution. Other topics of interest include the evolution of introns, Bayesian methods for fossil calibration of phylogenies, models of constructive neutral evolution, and the history and philosophy of evolutionary biology.

Eric Toth
Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research

Dr. Eric Toth applies biochemical and biophysical techniques, including X-ray crystallography, to accelerate the development of agents that modulate the function of a wide array of potential therapeutic targets. These efforts include the development of next-generation protein therapeutics, novel vaccines, and small molecule inhibitors of biologically important proteins.

Illarion Turko
Biomolecular Measurement Division

Proteins have multiple clinical applications--as biomarkers, therapeutics, and components of various biomaterials. All of these applications rely on accurate protein identification and quantification. Dr. Illarion Turko’s research focuses on the development of mass spectrometry measurements and protocols to quantitatively assess the concentrations of targeted proteins and their isoforms in clinically relevant biological samples.

Kristen Varney
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Dr. Varney has served as Manager of the University of Maryland, Baltimore Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Shared Service Facility for over 14 years and as Structural Biology Section Leader for the Center for Biotherapeutics (CBT) since 2011. In addition to conducting her own research, as director of this facility, Dr. Varney promotes the use of NMR spectroscopy in University of Maryland School of Medicine NIH-funded research, manages all NMR-related projects conducted at the UMB NMR facility, and keeps the NMR spectrometers (600 MHz, 800 MHz, 950 MHz NMR) in good working condition. A major component of Dr. Varney’s position is oversight of NIH-funded projects and training users.

David Weber
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

As Director of the Center for Biomolecular Therapeutics (CBT) located within IBBR, Dr. Weber manages state-of-the-art scientific studies that investigate mechanisms involved in disease states and develops drugs to treat them. His laboratory is one of many in the CBT developing small-molecule inhibitors geared toward treating cancer, diabetes, and infectious disease. One such project involves studies of the structure, function, and inhibition of the S100 family of calcium-binding proteins.

Shunyuan Xiao
Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture

Dr. Xiao’s research interests center on understanding and engineering plant resistance against fungal pathogens. Globally, up to 15% of crop losses are due to pathogens, including fungi. The Xiao lab has developed model systems to study powdery mildew on diverse plant species including barley, grape, strawberry, tomato, and Arabidopsis. These pathosystems have given the Xiao laboratory the ability to conduct molecular, genetic, and evolutionary studies of plant-powdery mildew interactions in order to develop mildew-resistant crop plants.

Wenbo Yu
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Dr. Wenbo Yu develops and uses computational methods to study the conformation changes, thermodynamic properties and interaction profiles of protein-protein interactions and complexes of proteins with small molecules. Dr. Yu focuses on development and application of computer-aided drug design (CADD) approaches for drug discovery, especially for cancer-related targets. In particular, he pursues new CADD methods development and coding; force field development; and molecular level simulation to investigate phenomena of biological and medicinal interest. In collaboration with experimentalists, Dr. Yu is studying new therapeutic targets, improving drug performance, and exploring structural level behaviors of drugs and macromolecules.

Bruce Yu
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Dr. Yu is a biophysicist and biochemist by training. Dr. Yu has synthesized dendrimer imaging agents for multi-color F-19 MRI and advanced MRI technology to evaluate the mechanical properties of soft materials and biological tissues.  He is also interested in the link between molecular chirality and material mechanical properties, and how chirality can be exploited to create biomaterials with novel mechanical properties for cell growth and differentiation. Dr. Yu is an inventor of several new technologies and holds six issued patents, including for dendrimer synthesis, biomaterials engineering, and noninvasive analytical technologies. Current research in the Yu lab involves regulatory science for biologics and nano-drugs.