Zoe Merz

Site-Specific Modification of Virus-Like Particles for Cancer Drug Delivery

Common cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy, have harsh side effects because they damage both healthy and cancerous cells. Therapies that deliver drugs directly to cancer cells eliminate this issue. Protein nanocages, coupled with cancer targeting ligands, are attractive drug delivery vessels due to their biocompatibility and reduced toxicity. One such protein nanocage is the MS2 bacteriophage Virus Like Particle (VLP) coat protein. This 27 nm diameter protein shell has shown promise for delivery applications due to its thermostability and high modifiability. To be used as a drug delivery system, MS2 must be loaded with a cancer therapy and modified on the exterior with a cancer cell targeting ligand. One promising cancer therapy is Cyclic Dinucleotides (CDNs). When delivered to a cell, CDNs activate the STING pathway, which signals the immune system to destroy that cell. In my project, I will be modifying the MS2 coat protein with CDNs on the interior and cancer cell targeting ligands on the exterior. I will then assess its viability in drug delivery through cell binding studies.

Message to Sponsor

Dear Rose Hills, Thank you so much for generously contributing to this research experience! I am so thankful to have been able to do research full time through SURF. Being a part of this program has helped me feel much more competent as a researcher as I presented in a conference and learned how to plan experiments on my own. I learned how to confidently present my work and how to discuss it with others not in my field. I now feel much more like a graduate student researcher than a dependent undergraduate researcher!
  • Major: Chemical Biology
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills Experience
  • Mentor: Matthew Francis