The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MITThe David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

National Cancer Institute Cancer Center

Science + Engineering... Conquering Cancer Together

Darrell J. Irvine, PhD

Professor of Biological Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering

Associate Director, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research

Member, Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine

Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute



KI Research Areas of Focus:
Nano-based Drugs, Cancer Immunology,
Personalized Medicine

"Our laboratory works at the interface of materials science and immunology. We use synthetic model systems to study immune cell biology and synthesize new materials for vaccines and immunotherapy. Building on our work on the mechanisms of T and B cell migration, we have developed chemokine-releasing microparticles that are informing our research and may represent a new tool for immunotherapy. We are also studying nanoparticles to overcome some of the key challenges in immunotherapy."

Learn more about the work going on in the Irvine lab, which focuses on development of drug delivery tools and new methods for analyzing cellular immune responses, by watching this video: "Inside the Lab: Darrell J. Irvine, Ph.D."

The Irvine lab's work is profiled as part of the current interactive exhibits in the Koch Institute Public Galleries.  Watch a web version of the story here.

Darrell Irvine is a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He also serves on the steering committee of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard.  His research is focused on the application of engineering tools to problems in cellular immunology and the development of new materials for vaccine and drug delivery.  Current efforts are focused on problems related to vaccine development for HIV and and immunotherapy of cancer.  This interdisciplinary work has been recognized in numerous awards, including a Beckman Young Investigator award, an NSF CAREER award, selection for Technology Review’s ‘TR35’, election as a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society, and appointment as an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  He is the author of over 70 publications, reviews, and book chapters and an inventor on numerous patents.

Further Information

Research Summary

The Irvine laboratory works at the interface of materials science and immunology. They use synthetic model systems to study immune cell biology and synthesize new materials for vaccines/immunotherapy, using a mechanistic understanding of the immune system to guide the design of these materials. They have pioneered the use of patterned surfaces as tools to dissect T-cell activation, using the ability to control the density, placement, and mobility of T-cell ligands, supported membranes, or entire cells on surfaces to dissect the functions of the immunological synapse in T-cell triggering. In a second focus, they study leukocyte chemotaxis/chemokinesis; they have discovered novel mechanisms for chemokine-mediated control of naïve lymphocyte migration, and shown that both T-cell and B cell migration in secondary lymphoid organs may be regulated by a complex interplay of chemokinesis and chemotaxis. Building on these fundamental findings, they have developed chemokine-releasing microparticles and hydrogels as tools to study immune cell migration and adjuvants to modulate cell migration in vaccines and immunotherapy. Finally, they have developed nanoparticles that can address key challenges in immunotherapy: (i) vaccine particles that co-deliver high doses of antigen in concert with immunostimulatory ligands, (ii) nanoparticles that deliver proteins or oligonucleotides to the cytosol of dendritic cells without cytotoxicity, and (iii) synthetic particles with surfaces structurally mimicking the envelope of pathogens.

Selected Publications

Hu Y, Litwin T, Nagaraja AR, Kwong B, Katz J, Watson N, and Irvine DJ, "Cytosolic delivery of membrane-impermeable molecules in dendritic cells using pH-responsive core-shell nanoparticles," Nano Letters 7(10) 3056-3064 (2007).

Stachowiak AN and Irvine DJ, "Inverse opal hydrogel-collagen composite scaffolds as a supportive microenvironment for immune cell migration," Journal of Biomedical Materials Research A, published online Oct. 15, 2007.

Doh J, and Irvine DJ, "Immunological Synapse Arrays: Patterned Protein Surfaces that Template Immunological Synapse Structure Formation in T Cells," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 103(15) 5700-5705 (2006). Pubmed Central ID: 1458636

Kim H, Cohen RE, Hammond PT, and Irvine DJ, "Live Lymphocyte Arrays for Biosensing," Advanced Functional Materials, 16 1313-1323 (2006).

Zhao X, Jain S, Larman HB, Gonzalez S, and Irvine DJ, "Directed cell migration via chemoattractants released from degradable microspheres," Biomaterials, 26(24) 5048-5063 (2005).

Search PubMed for Irvine lab publications

Articles and Media

Technology Insider profiled Prof. Irvine's work on immunology research and his ordered 3D scaffold environment in their Dec. 2004 issue. In Sept. 2004, Prof. Irvine was named to Technology Review's TR100, the magazine's list of young innovators who will change technology. See Tech Talk and Technology Review for more information.

Contact Information

Darrell J. Irvine

room 76-261
phone (617) 452-4174
fax (617) 452-3293

The Irvine Lab


Administrative Assistant:

Valerie A Corapi
room 76-261
phone (617) 253-5819