Gianluca received his bachelor’s degree in Sanitary Biotechnology in 2006 and his master’s degree in Medical Biotechnology in 2009 from the University of Trieste. In 2009 he came to NUI Galway to pursue a PhD under the supervision of Prof. Abhay Pandit. His research focused on the development of a multimodal strategy that combined cell and gene therapy approaches to trigger regeneration in the nucleus pulposus (NP), a key region of the intervertebral discs. A type II collagen/hyaluronan microgel system was tailored to prime adipose-derived stem cells towards a NP-like phenotype. Moreover, by using type II collagen as building block, a microsphere reservoir system was developed for the delivery of non-viral gene vectors such as polyplexes. The functionalization of 3D microgels with polyplex-loaded microsphere reservoirs allowed for the production of cell factories able to manufacture targeted therapeutic proteins, showing great potential for regenerative therapies of the NP. During his PhD Gianluca has authored three journal articles as first author (Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, Advanced Healthcare Materials and Bioconjugate Chemistry), has been co-author in three other articles (Biomaterials (2), Molecular Pharmaceutics) and in a book chapter. He has also presented his work at several key conferences.
Dr. Collier’s long-term goals are to design new biomaterials based on self-assembled peptides and proteins, to develop new concepts for controlling the interactions of the immune system with these materials, and to apply these concepts toward diseases currently not treatable with vaccines and immunotherapies. His expertise and interests are well suited to the proposed work owing to his group’s track record in designing peptide-based self-assembling materials and his most recent activity in the adaptive immunology of biomaterials (see publication list and previous funding below). In recent work, the Collier group has designed supramolecular materials for a variety of applications, including 3D cell culture, tissue engineering, and vaccines. The initial designs of the peptides proposed in this application makes use of this expertise and also introduce a new strategy for inducing expressed proteins to self-assemble into self-adjuvanting nanofibers, the -tail system, which is an innovative new line of investigation, both for the Collier group and in the area of supramolecular materials in general.