Darrell J. Irvine, PhD



Professor of Biological Engineering


Development of a vaccine for HIV
Cancer immunotherapy
Vaccine technologies


Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard


Prof. Irvine holds a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering Physics from University of Pittsburgh. After completing his PhD at MIT in Polymer Science, he continued his postdoctoral research in Immunology at Stanford University. Darrell Irvine joined MIT in 2002 as Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Material Science and Engineering and the then Biological Engineering Division.

50 nanometer microscope image.


Engineering approaches grounded in immunology hold the key to the discovery and development of novel treatments for cancer, infectious disease, and autoimmunity. To this end, the overarching goal of the Irvine laboratory is to engineer immunity through a fusion of immunology with biotechnology and materials chemistry, employing a materials science-centric approach to create new therapies based on the controlled modulation of the immune system. Our work toward this goal divides into three complimentary themes, all focused on adapting engineering principles to enhance the ability of the immune system to prevent and treat human disease:

1. Smart materials and nanotechnology for enhanced vaccines against infectious disease and cancer. We develop synthetic materials as adjuvants and delivery systems that shape the immune response elicited by vaccination, and study the underlying biological mechanisms governing this response.

2. Nanomaterials-enabled immunotherapy. Here we are exploring strategies to promote, amplify, and maintain anti-tumor immune responses by controlling where and when cells of the immune system receive stimulatory cues, and seeking to overcome the immunosuppressive milieu developed in solid tumors.

3. New tools for manipulating and monitoring the immune system. We develop biomaterials-based approaches to monitor and manipulate immune cells, to increase our fundamental understanding of the immune system and invent new methods for monitoring immunity in humans.

Research Areas: 

Selected Publications:

Stephan, Matthias T., James J. Moon, Soong Ho Um, Anna Bershteyn, and Darrell J. Irvine. "Therapeutic cell engineering with surface-conjugated synthetic nanoparticles." Nat Med 16, no. 9 (2010): 1035-41.
Moon, James J., Heikyung Suh, Adrienne V. Li, Christian F. Ockenhouse, Anjali Yadava, and Darrell J. Irvine. "Enhancing humoral responses to a malaria antigen with nanoparticle vaccines that expand Tfh cells and promote germinal center induction." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109, no. 4 (2012): 1080-5.
DeMuth, Peter C., Younjin Min, Bonnie Huang, Joshua A. Kramer, Andrew D. Miller, Dan H. Barouch, Paula T. Hammond, and Darrell J. Irvine. "Polymer multilayer tattooing for enhanced DNA vaccination." Nat Mater 12, no. 4 (2013): 367-76.
Li, Adrienne V., James J. Moon, Wuhbet Abraham, Heikyung Suh, Jamal Elkhader, Michael A. Seidman, Minmin Yen, Eung-Jun Im, Maria H. Foley, Dan H. Barouch et al. "Generation of effector memory T cell-based mucosal and systemic immunity with pulmonary nanoparticle vaccination." Sci Transl Med 5, no. 204 (2013): 204ra130.
Liu, Haipeng, Kelly D. Moynihan, Yiran Zheng, Gregory L. Szeto, Adrienne V. Li, Bonnie Huang, Debra S. Van Egeren, Clara Park, and Darrell J. Irvine. "Structure-based programming of lymph-node targeting in molecular vaccines." Nature 507, no. 7493 (2014): 519-22.