CURRENT MEMBERS


J. Andrew MacKay
J. Andrew MacKay, PhD
Gavin S. Herbert Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Viterbi School of Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Keck School of Medicine, Department of Ophthalmology
University of Southern California

Dr. MacKay received his SB in chemical engineering and biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999. A Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellow, he completed his PhD at the University of California at San Francisco and Berkeley in the joint graduate group in Bioengineering in 2005. As a Kirschstein National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. MacKay studied at Duke University in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. In 2008 Dr. MacKay joined the faculty at the University of Southern California. Dr. MacKay is a full member of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has authored over 49 peer-reviewed publications. His work is and has been supported by the US Army, NIH/NIGMS, NIH/NIBIB, NIH/NEI, StopCancer, USC Ming Hsieh Institute, and the USC Whittier Foundation. His group explores biomolecular engineering and nanomedicine. At the USC School of Pharmacy, Dr. MacKay has deep expertise teaching drug delivery, nanoscience, and pharmacokinetics.

Jordan Despanie
Jordan Despanie, BS
PhD Candidate, Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSCI)

I am a fourth year PhD candidate in the MacKay Lab at the USC School of Pharmacy. My research interests revolve around developing protein-polymer nanoformulations as anti-cancer therapeutics. My dissertation proposal, “Tubulin-based fusion proteins as multifunctional intracellular tools”, has received funding from both the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

Zhe Li
Zhe Li, BS
PhD Candidate, Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSCI)

My research focuses on the development of a new temperature-dependent strategy to modulate intracellular cell-signaling pathways to improve our understanding of biological systems. In particular, I study the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which I redesigned into a temperature-dependent protein switch that rapidly and reversibly modulates EGFR signaling pathways. We envision these new tools will enable more precise dissection of signaling cascades that inform basic research (study of pathways) as well as drug discovery (precision screening assays).

Changrim Lee
Changrim Lee, MS
PhD Candidate, Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSCI)

The title of my project is "Induction of Cell Surface Receptor Hyper-crosslinking using Extra-cellular Elastin-Like Polypeptides." Many cell-surface receptors are activated by lateral phase separation, which drives their downstream activation. While this can often be initiated by binding a ligand, in some cases multivalent ligands (nanoparticles/antibodies) can drive superior clustering/activation. To explore a new method for inducing receptor phase separation, we explore the phase behavior of elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs) bound to cell-surface receptors. We are currently exploring this concept using the CD20 receptor prevalent in lymphoma and targeted by the monoclonal blockbuster antibody Rituximab.

Aida Kouhi
Aida Kouhi, MS
PhD Candidate, Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSCI)

I'm a third year PhD candidate working in Dr. MacKay's lab where I develop novel protein-polymer based immunotherapies. I'm interested in using this new paradigm therapy in treatment of Non-Hodkin's lymphoma. I'm also study the mechanism of action of Rituximab, an FDA approved immunotherapy indicated for the treatment of Non-Hodkin's lymphoma. Outside lab, I try to be outdoors as much as possible, and travel around the world.

Mincheol Park
Mincheol Park, BS
PhD Candidate, Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSCI)

My project focuses on developing a regulatory chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) targeting B-lymphocyte antigen CD19. CAR T-cell therapy has immense potential to treat leukemia, often leading to complete remission. However, hyper-activation of anti-CD19 CAR T-cells has caused life-threatening side effects in clinical trials, such as cytokine release syndrome (CRS). To resolve this problem, it is essential to develop CARs that switch on and off when necessary. My dissertation project studies how elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs) can modulate CARs. I utilize molecular biology, protein purification, fluorescence imaging, and other biophysical techniques to study the opportunities for this strategy.

Hao Guo
Hao Guo, MS
PhD Candidate, Pharmaceutical & Translational Sciences (PHTS)

Despite its potency in treating multiple autoimmune diseases, cyclosporin A (CsA) has poor solubility, poor bioavailability, and induces serious adverse drug reactions, including nephrotoxicity and neurotoxicity. My research explores a new strategy using recombinant elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs) to solubilize CsA, to improve its safety profile, and to explore its efficacy in models of autoimmune disease.

Santosh Peddi
Santosh Peddi, MS
PhD Candidate, Pharmaceutical & Translational Sciences (PHTS)

I was born and raised in Hyderabad, India. I am a first-year graduate student in the Pharmaceutical and Translational Sciences program at USC School of Pharmacy. I obtained a Bachelor's degree in Pharmacy from Birla Institute of Technology and Science-India before joining Dr. MacKay's lab at USC. My research utilizes the cognate drug receptor technology to develop long-acting nano carriers of hydrophobic anti-cancer drugs like rapamycin.

David Tyrpak
David Tyrpak, BS
PhD Candidate, Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSCI)

My project is focused on using elastin-like polypeptide (ELP) fusion proteins of Caveolin1 and Clathrin light chain to reversibly control endocytosis through temperature-mediated phase separation. I’m particularly interested in applying bioinformatic and systems biology approaches to understand how endocytosis inhibition and activation affect gene expression and cell behavior. Overall, this work may provide the life science community with alternative and more precise tools to study trafficking, which is a highly significant process in both drug delivery and disease. I also work with my lab mate Zhe Li on a project studying ELP nanoparticle sorting and assembly in zebrafish embryos.

Anh Truong
Anh Truong, PharmD
PhD Candidate, Pharmaceutical & Translational Sciences (PHTS)

I am a recent graduate of the USC School of Pharmacy, having just transitioned into my first year as a PhD Candidate in Dr. MacKay's group. My interests involve the molecular aspects of cancer biology as well as the development and delivery of biologics. I am currently developing and characterizing an estrogen receptor fusion construct that may modulate hormone-independent intracellular signaling.

Hugo Avila
Hugo Avila, BS
PhD Candidate, Pharmaceutical & Translational Sciences (PHTS)

I am a second year PhD Candidate working on ELP fusion proteins. My project involves using ELPs as intracellular switches for endocytosis. When not in lab, I enjoy crashing RC-planes, bike-riding, and looking for new places to eat around LA. Rumor has it that I can also be found at the Magic Castle eating lots of truffle fries and employing trickery to entertain guests.

Yaping Ju
Yaping Ju, BS
PhD Candidate, Pharmaceutical & Translational Sciences (PHTS)
Co-mentored, Primary PI: Sarah Hamm-Alvarez, Keck School of Medicine of USC, Department of Ophthalmology

I am working on a collaborative project between Dr. MacKay’s lab and Dr. Hamm-Alvarez’s lab. I am trying to develop an inflammation site targeted drug carrier for Rapamycin to treat dacryoadenitis in Sjogren Syndrome. Outside the lab, I like exploring good food in LA as well as developing my secret recipes. A definite foodie!

Xiaoli Pan
Xiaoli Pan, BS
Masters Student

I earned my Bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences from China and now I am a second year masters student working in Dr. MacKay's lab. Our lab utilizes a thermal sensitive polypeptide, elastin like polypeptide (ELP), as a potent tool for different applications. My current work focus on tracking the cell uptake mechanism of labeled ELP in live cancer cells.

Zhiyuan Yao
Zhiyuan Yao, BS
Masters Student

I am a first year masters student in Dr. Mackay’s group. I received my Bachelor's of Science in Pharmaceutical Science from Sichuan University West China School of Pharmacy. My work will focus on protein-polymer based immunotherapies. In my spare time, I like exploring the city and taking photos.

Yue Wang
Yue Wang, BS
Masters Student

I received my Bachelor's of Science from Central South University, China. Now I am a first year graduate student in the Pharmaceutical Sciences program. I recently joined Dr. MacKay’s lab and am working on the Intracellular Switches research project. In my leisure time, I like running in the gym and traveling with my friends.

Yvette Kolodji
Yvette Kolodji, BS
Lab Manager

I received my Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. I joined the MacKay laboratory in 2015. My previous research involves rheology, neurology, biophysics and molecular engineering, and clinical research. Besides exploring the depths of science, I enjoys dancing, sketching, and hiking.

Adrienne MacKay
Adrienne MacKay, MS
Research Programmer

I have a masters degree in Information Science with expertise in database systems and systems analysis and design. I have more than 15 years of experience and have been in academia for over 10 years working as a research and analytical programmer at various universities. My preferred database is MySQL and I have experience programming in a variety of languages, most typically Perl and PHP these days. At USC, I am in the Keck School of Medicine and happily work on research projects for my primary PI, Richard Watanabe, who studies the pathophysiology and genetics of type 2 diabetes. I have additional projects with the Department of Preventive Medicine and the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute. In 2017, I joined the MacKay lab to support electronic laboratory notebooks, databases, and bioinformatics. Outside of work, I spend most of my time exploring museums and parks with my family. I also like to play board games, craft, and bake.

 

GRADUATED STUDENTS

DOCTORAL STUDENTS
Suhaas Aluri, PhD 2013, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Siti M Janib, PhD 2013, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Martha Pastuszka, PhD 2014, Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology
Pu Shi, PhD 2014, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Wan Wang, PhD 2014, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Aaron Hsueh, PhD (co-advised) 2015, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Mihir Shah, PhD (co-advised) 2017, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Jugal Dhandhukia, PhD 2017, Pharmaceutical Sciences

MASTERS STUDENTS
Suhaas Aluri, MS 2010, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Aarti Jashnani, MS 2010, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Sejal Parakh, MS 2010, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Mihir Shah, MS 2011, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Jugal Dhandhukia, MS 2012, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Vinit Gholap, MS 2012, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Jiawei Wang, MS 2014, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Dab Brill, MS 2015, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Santosh Peddi, MS 2015, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Hao Guo, MS 2015, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Shruti Kakan, MS 2017, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS SPONSORED
Jenan Abid (University of London), 2009
Lorcan O'Carroll (Trinity College, Dublin), 2009
Juntang Shao (China Pharmaceutical University), 2011
Fengfei Ma (China Pharmaceutical University), 2012
Marcello Martinez (University of Saarland), 2015
Zifang (Nick) Deng (China Pharmaceutical University), 2018

PHARMD/UNDERGRADUATE/HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS SPONSORED
Ais Wu (USC, Biomedical Engineering), 2009
Sarah Park (USC, Biomedical Engineering), 2009
Alexa Hudnut (USC), 2010-2011
Renee Duncan-Mestel (USC), 2011
Isaac Weitzhandler (USC, Chemical Engineering), 2011-2012
Benjamin Droese (USC, Pharm D), 2011
Andrew Nelson (USC, Chemistry), 2012-2013
Jason Pang (USC, Biomedical Engineering, Physics), 2013
Derrius Anderson (USC BTG, Morehouse, Chemistry), 2014
Josh Christian (USC SHARPP, Diamondbar High School), 2014
Joellen Chan (USC, Biomedical Engineering), 2015
Aman Rai (USC, Pharm D), 2015
Anh Truong (USC, Pharm D), 2014-2017

POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWS TRAINED
Vinod Valluripalli, 2009-2011
Guoyong Sun (co-advised), 2009-2012
Joshua Gustafson, 2012-2013