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Infectious Disease Engineering Advances (IDEAs)



  • Victor Nizet, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacy
  • Liangfang Zhang,  Joan and Irwin Jacobs Chancellor Professor of Nanoengineering and Bioengineering



The ever-expanding antibiotic resistance crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic highlight infectious diseases management as a defining challenge for medicine in the 21st Century. The vision of the Infectious Diseases Engineering Advances (IDEAs) Center is to provide breakthrough innovations for infectious diseases diagnosis, treatment and prevention through the collaborative activities of engineers and medical scientists.

IDEAs Center Investigators have engineered suites of genome- and systems-scale knowledge-enriched big data analytic methods to keep pace with the rapid data generation coming from pathogen surveillance across the globe. We are seeking to disrupt the status quo of small-scale laboratory experiments with model strains by knowledge-enriched analysis of large data sets derived from patient information, starting with clinical material (metadata, microbial strain, patient bio-samples) and guiding them into the lab for detailed data analytics and drill down experiments, i.e. "reverse translational research”. 

By applying microfluidic, optical, engineering, and computational approaches, we are pioneering technologies to provide rapid, quantitative, sensitive, and specific polymicrobial detection for integration into clinical workflow. Nanoparticle-based innovations are applied to neutralize microbial virulence factors, control pathological inflammation during sepsis, and engineer vaccines for emerging or antibiotic-resistant pathogens.  Nano-therapeutics can also to deliver nucleic acids to modify or increase the function of immune cells and improve the patients resiliency to infection and ability to clear the pathogen. Novel mass spectrometry-based proteomic and metabolomic approaches are applied to provide a systems-level analysis of the host-pathogen interaction and optimize the pharmacology of antibiotics and next-generation therapeutics such as engineered bacteriophages. Computer engineering challenges exist in curating and standardizing the existing pathogen and immune epitope data for understanding host immunity to infection and designing next-generation vaccines.


  • Engineered alternatives to classical antibiotics
  • Platforms for rapid pathogen diagnosis and patient monitoring
  • Next generation vaccine technologies
  • Nanoparticle based therapeutics for pathogens and sepsis
  • Multi-omic data analytics for pathogen and host microbiome

Specific Areas of Study

  • Big data analytics of infectious pathogens and antibiotic resistance
  • Nanoengineering for antibiotic delivery, vaccines and sepsis treatment
  • Novel vaccine technologies for emerging viral and bacterial pathogens
  • Microbiome based treatments and preventative strategies
  • Rapid diagnostics platforms for pathogen detection and host response
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning for infectious disease management

Interactions With Other Centers

  • Center of Excellence for Nano-Medicine and Engineering (CNME): nanoparticles
  • Center for Multiscale Imaging of Living Systems (CMILS): basic science, biodistribution
  • Whitaker Center for Biomedical Engineering (WCBE): education
  • von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center: intellectual property, venture capital
  • There will also be interactions with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering regarding Epitope discovery algorithms

Medical Translation

  • More rapid diagnosis and personalized therapy of difficult infections
  • Nanoparticle-based systems for drug delivery and virulence factor neutralization
  • Precision therapeutics that preserve and leverage the human microbiome
  • Rapid vaccine development for emerging viral pathogens
  • Immune profiling and immune boosting to boost infectious resistance
  • Advanced data analytics and machine learning for infectious disease management

Funding Opportunities

  • NIH
  • multi-PI grants
  • PPG
  • NCRR
  • RFAs
  • Contracts (IEDB)
  • Pharmaceutical industry:
  • Research contracts
  • Licensing
  • Biotech Industry:
  • Funding for IP
  • Startups


IDEAs Members 

View all researchers associated with IDEAs here