Biotechnology Undergraduate and Professional Science Masters Programs
Department of Plant Biology and Pathology
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
59 Dudley Rd.
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8250
Office: Room 272 Foran Hall, 848-932-6230
Ph.D., Biochemistry, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Molecular delivery vesicles in biology and biotechnology (“vesiclomics”)
We have a general interest in naturally-occurring or investigator-designed nanoscale vesicles that act as transporters for delivery of molecules to cells. In gram negative bacteria, outer membrane vesicles (OMV) that bud off of the bacterial surface have been implicated in such activities as horizontal gene transfer, the transport of virulence factors and the development of biofilms in human diseases such as cystic fibrosis. In eukaryotes, secreted exosome vesicles have recently been shown to transport effectors and signaling molecules such as small RNAs to other cells. Synthetic nanoscale liposomal vesicles have also been designed to mediate delivery of biotherapeutics to target disease cells. Our research aims to:A) understand the role of certain naturally-occurring small vesicles in their biological context, including compositional analysis and testing membrane fusion activity with natural targets. B) re-engineer appropriate vesicles for delivery purposes and C) use the bottom-up approach to design and test lipid-based nanoscale delivery systems.
Lysobacter enzymogenes vesicles - One focus of this work will be to characterize the OMV of the bacterium Lysobacter enzymogenes, an organism used in the biocontrol of plant diseases. We are investigating the hypothesis that OMV may be involved in the fusogenic delivery of biocontrol factors to target organisms, such as pathogenic fungi.
Vesicle-biofilm interactions – Many bacteria and other microorganisms organize into local aggregates of cells within a self-produced matrix called a biofilm. Biofilms help these organisms to survive extreme environments or assault by antibiotics. It is now known that bacterial biofilms, such as those produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, contain large numbers of associated OMV. We plan to investigate the role of such vesicles in biofilms, as well as continue our previous work to investigate the design of liposomal vesicles to bind within biofilms for delivery of therapeutics.
Delivery systems for intracellular targets – One of the most important problems in biopharmaceutical research has been the development of methods to deliver intracellularly acting agents, such as small interfering RNA or appropriate transgene constructs. We have an interest in continuing our testing of modular synthetic nanoscale delivery systems as well as investigating genetically designed vesicles derived from pro- or eukaryotic cells for targeted fusogenic delivery.
Dr. Meers joined the department in 2011 and serves as adviser to undergraduates in the Biotechnology undergraduate program.