Darrell J. Irvine, PhD

Lab Info:

Principal Investigator: Darrell J. Irvine, PhD

Office/Location: MIT Koch Building

Phone: (617) 452-4174


Category: Steering Committee

The Irvine laboratory works at the interface of materials science and immunology. We use synthetic model systems to study immune cell biology and synthesize new materials for vaccines and immunotherapy. Building on our work on the mechanisms of T and B cell migration, we have developed chemokine-releasing microparticles that are informing our research and may represent a new tool for immunotherapy. We are also studying nanoparticles to overcome some of the key challenges in immunotherapy.


Learn more about the work going on in the Irvine lab, which focuses on development of drug delivery tools and new methods for analyzing cellular immune responses, by watching this video: “Inside the Lab: Darrell J. Irvine, Ph.D.


The Irvine lab’s work is profiled as part of the current interactive exhibits in the Koch Institute Public Galleries.  Watch a web version of the story here.


Dr. Irvine is a Professor of Materials Science & Engineering and Biological Engineering at MIT and an investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received his bachelor’s degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1995 and his Ph.D. in Polymer Science from MIT in 2000. As a Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Irvine moved from the physical sciences to the life sciences, studying fundamental aspects of T cell recognition in the laboratory of Mark M. Davis at Stanford University from 2000-2002. In 2002, he returned to MIT with a dual appointment in Materials Science & Engineering and Biological Engineering. Dr. Irvine is the recipient of an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Young Investigator Award, an NSF CAREER award, and was selected to the Technology Review ‘TR100’ in 2004. In 2008, he was selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. He is currently a member of the Steering Committee for the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard.


Research Summary

The Irvine laboratory works at the interface of materials science and immunology. They use synthetic model systems to study immune cell biology and synthesize new materials for vaccines/immunotherapy, using a mechanistic understanding of the immune system to guide the design of these materials. They have pioneered the use of patterned surfaces as tools to dissect T-cell activation, using the ability to control the density, placement, and mobility of T-cell ligands, supported membranes, or entire cells on surfaces to dissect the functions of the immunological synapse in T-cell triggering. In a second focus, they study leukocyte chemotaxis/chemokinesis; they have discovered novel mechanisms for chemokine-mediated control of naïve lymphocyte migration, and shown that both T-cell and B cell migration in secondary lymphoid organs may be regulated by a complex interplay of chemokinesis and chemotaxis. Building on these fundamental findings, they have developed chemokine-releasing microparticles and hydrogels as tools to study immune cell migration and adjuvants to modulate cell migration in vaccines and immunotherapy. Finally, they have developed nanoparticles that can address key challenges in immunotherapy: (i) vaccine particles that co-deliver high doses of antigen in concert with immunostimulatory ligands, (ii) nanoparticles that deliver proteins or oligonucleotides to the cytosol of dendritic cells without cytotoxicity, and (iii) synthetic particles with surfaces structurally mimicking the envelope of pathogens.

Selected Publications

Hu Y, Litwin T, Nagaraja AR, Kwong B, Katz J, Watson N, and Irvine DJ, “Cytosolic delivery of membrane-impermeable molecules in dendritic cells using pH-responsive core-shell nanoparticles,” Nano Letters 7(10) 3056-3064 (2007).


Stachowiak AN and Irvine DJ, “Inverse opal hydrogel-collagen composite scaffolds as a supportive microenvironment for immune cell migration,” Journal of Biomedical Materials Research A, published online Oct. 15, 2007.


Doh J, and Irvine DJ, “Immunological Synapse Arrays: Patterned Protein Surfaces that Template Immunological Synapse Structure Formation in T Cells,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 103(15) 5700-5705 (2006). Pubmed Central ID: 1458636


Kim H, Cohen RE, Hammond PT, and Irvine DJ, “Live Lymphocyte Arrays for Biosensing,” Advanced Functional Materials, 16 1313-1323 (2006).


Zhao X, Jain S, Larman HB, Gonzalez S, and Irvine DJ, “Directed cell migration via chemoattractants released from degradable microspheres,” Biomaterials, 26(24) 5048-5063 (2005).


Search PubMed for Irvine lab publications

Articles and Media

Technology Insider profiled Prof. Irvine’s work on immunology research and his ordered 3D scaffold environment in their Dec. 2004 issue.


In Sept. 2004, Prof. Irvine was named to Technology Review’s TR100, the magazine’s list of young innovators who will change technology. See Tech Talk and Technology Review for more information.