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Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
208 North Wright Street Urbana, Illinois 61801


Office hours 8:30a - 5:00p


Phone: 217-333-3097
Fax: 217-244-6375


Daniel Wayne Pack

Daniel Wayne Pack

Associate Professor
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
125 Roger Adams Laboratory, MC-MC 712
600 S. Mathews
Urbana, Illinois 61801
(217) 244-2816
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Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, 1997

Research Statement:

Human gene therapy - the use of genetic material for the prevention, control or treatment of disease - shows great promise for treating medical conditions ranging from muscular dystrophy to cancer to AIDS. However, the lack of safe and efficient DNA-delivery methods is one of the most imposing obstacles to in vivo gene therapy. The goal of our research is to apply an engineering design approach to create improved materials for construction of gene delivery vehicles. Two examples of our approach are described below.
Directed evolution of viruses:

Viruses have evolved to be very efficient DNA-delivery vehicles, and therefore are attractive candidates for gene therapy. Unfortunately, the environments in which the viruses have evolved are dissimilar to those which are encountered in gene therapy applications. For instance, recombinant retroviruses are currently the most commonly used virus for gene therapy, but retroviruses are highly labile making them notoriously difficult to purify and concentrate. In addition, viruses have evolved a natural host-cell preference which very often is different from that required for a particular application. To produce viruses optimized for gene therapy, it will be necessary to engineer the desired properties (e.g., stability or cell specificity) into the virus structure while retaining viral infectivity. To achieve this goal we are employing directed molecular evolution to modify the viral surface proteins. Thus, we create a large library of random mutant viruses, each displaying a unique surface protein, and apply an external "selection pressure" such as infectivity on a new cell type. The power of this method lies in the fact that we can "evolve" viruses toward a desired property with little insight on the virus structure a priori.
Design and synthesis of "artifical viruses":

Non-viral gene delivery vehicles based on polymers or lipids are safer and easier to produce than viruses, but are currently much less efficient. Delivery of DNA by these materials can be broken down into potential limiting steps such as targeting to the cell surface, internalization, transport into the cytoplasm and transport to the nucleus. By developing quantitative assays (e.g., based on flow cytometry) for each of these key steps, we are elucidating the structure-function relationship of various gene delivery vehicles. This increased understanding of the process of gene delivery is allowing us to design and synthesize new materials with which we may construct "artificial viruses."
Research Interests:
Biomolecular Engineering and Biotechnology
For more information:
Faculty Profile
Laboratory for Advanced Drug/Gene Delivery Systems

Honors, Recognition, and Outstanding Achievements:

  • Xerox Award for Faculty Research, College of Engineering, University of Illinois, UC, 2008
  • Beckman Fellow, Center for Advanced Study, 2004-2005
  • Young Faculty Award, 3M, 2003-2006
  • CAREER Award, National Science Foundation, 2002
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, School of Chemical Sciences, University of Illinois, UC, 2000, 2003
  • Post-Doctoral Fellowship, National Institutes of Health, 1997-1999
  • Distinguished Graduate Student Lectureship, California Institute of Technology, 1996
  • Graduate Student Award, Materials Research Society, 1995