Laboratory for Vaccine and Immunotherapy Delivery


About the Lab

The Laboratory for Vaccine and Immunotherapy Delivery (LVID), a.k.a. the Zaharoff Lab, in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill focuses on the development of innovative, translatable vaccine and immunotherapy delivery platforms that will have high clinical impact in an immediate timeframe.

Our multidisciplinary research program utilizes the engineering design process to develop novel biomaterials-based strategies for localized immunotherapy delivery. Localized immunotherapy delivery is based on the principles that nearly all diseases can be managed through immunomodulation and that immunotherapies are safest and most effective if delivered directly to the affected tissue/organ. Our delivery systems exploit both natural and engineered biomaterials to control the context in which antigens and/or immunomodulators are introduced to the immune system. Controlling delivery allows us to:  (1) manipulate duration and intensity of immune responses; (2) limit systemic side effects; and (3) overcome local inflamed or suppressed microenvironments.

News and Announcements

Khue’s paper published in JBC

His paper builds upon his previous work demonstrated that heparin and heparin sulfate can enhance the activity of IL-12. Heparin chain length and degree of sulfation we found to be critical paramaters for enhancing IL-12. Based on these data he proposed a model of stabilization by which heparin enhances binding of IL-12 to its receptor subunits, IL-12Rbeta1 and IL12Rbeta2, which both have putative heparin binding domains.

January 22, 2019

So Long Frank!!

One of the goals of our lab is to train good people for their next position. In the immortal words of Bush43 “Mission accomplished!” Frank landed a cushy job as a Process Development Scientist at Grifols! We’d post a pic of Frank, but there are so few that it is quite possible that all of this has been a front for his real gig in the CIA.

January 18, 2019

Dr. Khue G. Nuyen!!!

After a frantic finish which included a couple all nighters, Khue successfully defended his dissertation. He also rode a Cowfish and his dad came from Vietnam to see him walk. That’s what its all about kids.

Khue likes North Carolina so much that he’s going to stick around as a postdoc.

December 16, 2018

Fake Santa

Asked if Santa new Buddy the Elf and he just gave a blank stare, mouth agape. If you don’t know who Buddy the Elf is, then you ain’t Santa. By the way, that’s a good money making scheme. How popular do you think a Buddy the Elf photo opp would be?

December 13, 2018

Sruthi’s paper (finally) published in Breast Cancer Research

It’s not her fault they took forever. Her paper shows that G-CSF can drive expansion of MDSCs which protects G-CSF secreting tumor cells from recognition and elimination by the immune system. If you knockout G-CSF, the highly aggressive 4T1 tumor model becomes quite immunogenic.

October 22, 2018

Welcome Maura Vrabel!!

Maura is a new PhD student. She is a Chemical Engineering grad from Notre Dame. She hails from the thriving metropolis of Boiling Springs, PA and was awarded the NC State Provost’s Fellowship. She likes Notre Dame football from February through December.

August 16, 2018

Welcome Frank Gillam!!

Frank (Francis) B. Gillam, PhD, joins the lab as a postdoc. Frank returns to North Carolina, earning his PhD in Biomolecular Engineering from Virginia Tech where he was President of the Frank Beamer fan club. Frank grew up in Asheville and earne BS and MS degrees from NC State.

January 29. 2018

Khue and Bhanu publish in Scientific Reports

Along with our University of Arkansas colleagues, Bhanu and Khue demonstrate that heparin serves as a co-receptor in order to enhance the bioactivity of IL-12. In addition, heparin is able to recover the IL-12 activity in cells in which both IL-12 receptor subunits have been functionally deleted.

July 13, 2017

Leaving the nest....time to re-load!!

Congratulations to Sean Smith for accepting a postdoc fellowship in the Hammond Lab at MIT!!!!

Congratulations to Bhanu Koppolu for accepting a position with BTG International!!!!

With these departures, the Zaharoff Lab is looking for more graduate students and postdocs. An advertisement for one postdoctoral position is here.

June 30, 2017

Dr. Sean

Congrats to Sean Smith for a successful defense of his dissertation!! They grow up so fast!!


June 1, 2017

All Sean does is win

Sean Smith won 3rd place in the Engineering Division of the 12th Annual Graduate Research Symposium at NC State. He spent all of his winnings on diapers, like a good Dad-to-be. Double congrats, Sean and Emily!!

March 22, 2017

No Santa, No Problem

We went to get our annual lab picture with Santa, as is our tradition, but the jolly old elf was taking a nap. So we had to improvise a little.

December 14, 2016

Congrats Dr. R!!!

Sruthi Ravindranathan successfully defends her dissertation!  She is now off to do a postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Edmund Waller's lab at Emory University. Congratulations and Best of Luck!!!!

December 6, 2016

Sean's manuscript published in OncoImmunology

In his latest paper, Sean Smith characterizes the local and systemic immune response to intravesical immunotherapy of bladder cancer with chitosan/IL-12. The paper is Open Access on the OncoImmunology website or you can download it here.

November 18, 2016

Sean speaks at SITC 2016

Sean's abstract was selected for a podium presentation in the "Emerging Technologies" session at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) Annual meeting in National Harbor, MD. The session was well attended and most importantly, he got to eat at the iconic Ben's Chili Bowl in DC.

November 12, 2016

Goodbye Arkansas, hello North Carolina

The Z lab has moved to the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and NC State University. We expect that this move will provide more opportunities to interface with oncologists and drive our cutting edge immunotherapies into the clinic. The goal is and always will be to eliminate the mortality and morbidity associated with cancer. Moving to North Carolina will help us achieve this goal. That said, we will miss our Arkansas colleagues and friends. Arkansas is a special place.

August 15, 2016

Another competition, another win for Sean and VivImmune

Sean's team won the graduate division at the Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Collegiate Business Plan Competition in Las Vegas. In addition to the $30,000 first place prize, they also received $2,000 for winning the graduate division elevator pitch competition. Read more here.

May 31, 2016

So long Seniors!

A talented group of LVID undergraduate researchers are taking their tale. Seth Washispack enrolled in the accelerated MBA program in the Walton College of Business at U of A. Cassie Walker has accepted a position as a Consulting Analyst with Cerner Corporation. Kristina Maxwell will go to Wash U as a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering. Future physicians Jack Baltz and Annika Tabassum will enroll at UAMS. Tayler Pauls will go to Boston University as a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering.  

May 14, 2016

Sruthi's paper published in Marine Drugs

This paper settles a longstanding controversy over whether or not the ubiquitous biopolymer chitosan is immunogenic. Sruthi found that the wide varieties of chitosan from different vendors induce drastically different inflammatory responses. By painstakingly depyrogenating chitosan (i.e. removing endotoxins), Sruthi showed that pure chitosan is more or less immunologically inert.

May 11, 2016

VivImmune wins first place at the Cardinal Challenge

Sean & Co. win first place in the graduate division and $25,000 at the 2016 Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition.  They also won the AT&T Elevator Pitch Contest for $2,000 and the Delta Plastics Innovation Award for $5,000. Read more here.

April 20, 2016

Zaharoff lab spin off, VivImmune, wins first place at the Cardinal Challenge

Sean Smith and colleagues at VivImmune took home $15,000 in cash plus $100,000 of in-kind prizes from the Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge, a business plan competition at the University of Louisville. Read more here.

February 13, 2016

Sean's review paper published in Immunotherapy

This review makes a strong case for the development of new immunotherapies for non-muscle invasive bladder cancer that are capable of inducing tumor-specific immune responses.

February 9, 2016

Welcome to the world Saanvi Koppolu!!

Bhanu and Weiwei were jealous of Khue so they went and had a baby of their own!!

January 21, 2016

Welcome to the world Maggie Nguyen!!

Khue Nguyen and his wife have a 6lb baby girl. No CRISPR/Cas9 technology was used in the making of this baby!

December 24, 2015


Kristina wins a SURF award

Congratulations to Kristina Maxwell for winning a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) for her project "G-CSF Knockdown Immunomodulation of Breast Cancer Cells for Whole Tumor Cell Vaccine." She will be learning CRISPR/Cas9 technology to knock-out G-CSF in 4T1 breast tumor cells.

December 23, 2015

Sruthi presents breast cancer research at SITC and SABCS

Sruthi Ravindranathan presented her data on breast tumor cell vaccines and immunosuppressive induced by myeloid-derived suppressor cells at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) in National Harbor, MD and at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in San Antonio.


December 6, 2015

Seth is significant!

Seth Washispack is selected as a "Senior of Significance" for the Class of 2016.  This award is given to the top 2% of seniors at the University as determined by the faculty.

December 3, 2015

Rudolph, with your nose so bright...

Great news..Santa was awake this year!!  Prior to visiting Santa, Kristina Maxwell, a.k.a. Turkey Tina, showed off her bowling skilz at a Z lab Lunch n' Bowl outing.

December 3, 2015

BMES 2015 in Tampa, FL

Khue Nguyen, Kristina Maxwell, Jack Baltz, Seth Washispack and Tayler Pauls all hung posters at the Biomedical Engineering Society's Annual Meeting in Tampa, FL.

October 10, 2015

Sean presents bladder cancer immunotherapy research to Elsa and Elmo!

Sean Smith presented his most recent bladder immunotherapy findings at the Inaugural CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference in New York City.  He even took time out of his busy schedule to make believers out of Elsa and Elmo! Olaf wasn't so interested.

September 20, 2015

Zaharoff Lab awarded funding for Breast Cancer work

A one-year grant from the Arkansas Breast Cancer Research Program was award to the Zaharoff lab to determine if immune suppression induced by breast cancer can be reversed with cytokine adjuvant therapy following standard-of-care tumor resection. The long term goal of the study is to re-establish immune function in the breast cancer patient in order to prevent progressive recurrences and metastasis which is responsible for more than 90% of breast cancer deaths.

September 1, 2015

Sean goes to Amgen

Sean Smith embarks on a graduate internship in the Comparative Biology and Safety Sciences division of Amgen in South San Francisco.  

June 1, 2015

Khue presents at AAI 2015

Khue Nguyen presented a posted titled: "Mechanisms of Cytokine and Chemokine Regulation Interleukin-12 elicits various responses of splenocytes from different mouse strains," at the American Association of Immunologist (AAI) 2015 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA.

May 1, 2015

David Zaharoff is COE's Rising Star

David Zaharoff was recognized by the College of Engineering with the Rising Star Faculty Award. The award is based classic metrics of scholastic activities (i.e., publications, impact, number of PhD and MS students graduated, extramural funding, patent submissions that lead to local economy development, prestigious awards like NSF, DOD, DOE, NIH career awards, etc.).

April 28, 2015

Zaharoff recognized in University's Top 15

David Zaharoff was recognized by the offices of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Vice Provost for Research and Economic Development as one of the University of Arkansas' Top 15 most highly funded in fiscal year 2014.

April 28, 2015

Michaela Mertz wins BMEG Outstanding Senior

Congratulations to Michaela Mertz who was named Department of Biomedical Engineering Outstanding Senior for the Class of 2015.  Michaela will pursue her PhD studies at the University of Florida in the fall.

April 27, 2015

Michaela Mertz receives NSF GRF Honorable Mention

Graduating senior Michaela Mertz receives the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention

April 23, 2015

Ethan Lowry presents at AACR 2015

Ethan Lowry presents his chitosan hydrogel work at American Association for Cancer Research 2015 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA

April 21, 2015

Zaharoff Lab featured on Arkansas Short Takes

As a recipient of funding support from the Women's Giving Circle, several Z lab members make cameos in this short video.

April 1, 2015

Ethan Lowry presents research at State Capitol

Ethan Lowry presented his chitosan hydrogel research to state senators and representatives at the State Capitol building in Little Rock. In the fall, Ethan will pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering at the University of Auckland, New Zealand

February 5, 2015

Zaharoff Lab visits Santa

After a Holiday Feast at Penguin Ed's BBQ, members of the Z lab descend upon Santa for our annual lab photo.

December 10, 2014

Sruthi, Sean, Michaela, Ethan, Katie, Annika and Cassie present at BMES 2014

Sruthi Ravindranathan, Sean Smith, Michaela Mertz, Ethan Lowry, Katie Wilson and Cassie Walker presented their latest research findings at the Biomedical Engineering Society 2014 Annual Conference in San Antonio.  And then of course....margaritas!!


October 25, 2014

Zaharoff and Wolchok featured on Ozarks at Large

Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professors David Zaharoff and Jeff Wolchok talk about their research and the recent upswing in NIH funding at the University of Arkansas on "Ozarks at Large", a locally produced news magazine. The podcast can be found here.

October 7, 2014

Zaharoff Lab awarded NIH R01

The Zaharoff Lab, in collaboration with Dr. Suresh Kumar's lab, was awarded a 5-year $1.5M grant entitled "Biopolymer-based strategies for local delivery of cytokine therapeutics" from the National Cancer Institute. This project will develop cytokine bioconjugates to enhance intratumoral retention and immunotherapy efficacy.

July 21, 2014

Sushanth Kumar recognized with Goldwater Honorable Mention

Congratulation to Biomedical Engineering/Biochemistry double major Sushanth Kumar for receiving Honorable Mention in the Barry Goldwater Scholarship competition.

April 16, 2014

Zaharoff Lab awarded NIH R15

The Zaharoff Lab was awarded a 3-year $416,897 grant entitled "Intravesical Chitosan/IL-12 Immunotherapy for Bladder Carcinoma" from the National Cancer Institute. This project will extend preclinical studies to explore local-to-systemic anti-tumor immunity following intravesical administration.

March 6, 2014

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