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James Swartz

Professor Swartz received his first lessons in resourcefulness and persistence growing up on a farm in South Dakota. After earning a BS in Chemical Engineering with Highest Honors from S. Dak. School of Mines and Technology, he began his professional career with Union Oil Co. of CA in Casper, Wyoming. Serving in the Drilling, Reservoir Engineering, and Production Departments provided an appreciation of the complexity and importance of large scale energy technologies. That experience also strengthened his belief that biological technologies offered the power and versatility to better address evolving societal needs. The MIT graduate programs in chemical engineering (MS) and biochemical engineering (Dsc) helped strengthen his biological training while broadening an appreciation for this emerging field. Following a 3 month exchange visit to the Soviet Union, he gained additional experience at Eli Lilly and participated in the development of the first recombinant DNA pharmaceutical to be approved, rDNA insulin. After two years, he moved to Genentech to help establish their drug production capability, developing the fermentation process for their first product, rDNA growth hormone.

After 17 years at Genentech in various line and project leadership positions, he joined the Stanford Chemical Engineering Department with a focus on an embryonic technology called cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS). Multiple technology breakthroughs from his lab motivated the founding of Sutro Biopharma which now has four promising anti-cancer drugs in clinical trials. A new company called Vaxcyte later spun out of Sutro to focus on complex human vaccines enabled by CFPS. Both companies are now publicly traded. Another company, GreenLight Biosciences, is focusing on inexpensive, large scale RNA production for use against agricultural pests. At Stanford, Professor Swartz is now focusing on expanding the basic capabilities of cell-free bioprocess while also developing technologies for targeted drug development, vaccines, circulating tumor cell assays, the carbon negative production of commodity biochemicals, and for economically attractive photosynthetic hydrogen production.

Medea Neek, Ph.D.

Post-Doctoral Scholar

M.S., University of California, Irvine, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering (2015)

Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (2019)

I am currently a postdoctoral scholar working with Prof. James R. Swartz in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering at Stanford. My research focuses on designing and engineering smart nanoparticle platforms to overcome the obstacles of current targeted cancer therapies. I am very enthusiastic about my project and I am looking forward to make new discoveries and make significant contributions to the field of cancer treatment. Targeted therapy (precision medicine) is one of the current research development in cancer treatment. While nanoparticle (NP)-based delivery agents have the potential to provide safe and effective targeted delivery, all the results to date have been disappointing. Ongoing challenges include: particle instability, rapid clearance by immune system phagocytosis, off-target toxicity, and immunogenicity. My goal in Dr. Swartz’s lab is to advance our findings and understanding to design a delivery vehicle that overcomes these obstacles to safely and effectively target the cancer cells. My work as a graduate student with Dr. Szu We Wang at the University of California Irvine (UCI) focused on protein-based nanoparticles for improved cancer immunotherapy, in various mouse and tumor models. My graduate study and postdoctoral training have provided me a balance of immunology and nanotechnology research experience, with expertise in nanoparticle design and engineering, in vitro and ex vivo immune cells handling, in vivo animal tumor models, live animal imaging, as well as developing strong written and oral communication skills through grant- and manuscript-writing, mentoring students and classroom teaching.


Max Levine, MS

Life Science Research Professional II / Laboratory Manager

B.S., California Polytechnic State University, SLO, Biological Sciences, Anatomy and Physiology Concentration (2016)

M.S., California Polytechnic State University, SLO, General Biology (2019)

My past work has encompassed many avenues of biology and biochemistry that include building large DNA libraries for environmental fecal contamination tracing, analyzing transcriptomics and metabolomics of E. coli, and improving and democratizing cell-free protein synthesis systems. Currently, my research focuses on developing more efficient cancer therapies through nanoparticle engineering and exploring new ways to optimize cell-free protein synthesis. Our laboratory utilizes a Hepatitis B-based nanoparticle that has been engineered to confer more efficient stability and the ability to bind proteins and molecules for directed drug delivery to prostate cancer tumors within a mouse model.

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