Laboratory of Lymphatic Cancer and Bioengineering
In the Laboratory of Lymphatic Cancer and Bioengineering at the École Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne, Matias worked on developing a new platform of vaccines made to induce anti-tumor responses in the body. The lab had previously developed a system in which a peptide was conjugated to polymer nanoparticles which was the platform through which the peptide was delivered along with an adjuvant. An adjuvant boosts the body’s immune response so that memory cells against the particular adjuvant are made when the antigen is first presented. Matias Porras worked on trying to synthesize nanoparticles that were conjugated with both the adjuvant and the peptide.
He first tested what the extent of stimulation was on bone-marrow derived dendritic cells by several adjuvants to choose the appropriate one to be conjugated to the nanoparticle. He then worked on trying to synthesize the nanoparticles and figuring out how to purify the desired nanoparticles from the undesired ones (unconjugated). At first, the synthesis did not seem to work because very few of the desired nanoparticles were observed. It turned out to be a purification problem that when resolved showed that the synthesis had worked.
At EPFL, Matias Porras put to good use the critical thinking that he learned at MIT. He managed to prove the concept of the new nanoparticle platform which he presented to the laboratory at the end of his stay. He learned various new laboratory techniques, was exposed to working with mammalian cells, and learned a great deal of immunology. The collaborative and diverse attitude that he felt in the lab further enhanced his desire to produce graduate studies. After his experience in Switzerland, Matias is greatly considering pursuing a career in the development of immunotherapies either in the United States or in Europe.