Darrel J. Irvine, PhD

Professor / Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Room 76-261, Cambridge, MA 02139

Darrell Irvine is a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He also serves on the steering committee of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard.


Darrell Irvine’s research is focused on the application of engineering tools to problems in cellular immunology and the development of new materials for vaccine and drug delivery. His current efforts are focused on problems related to vaccine development for HIV and immunotherapy of cancer.

This interdisciplinary work has been recognized in numerous awards, including a Beckman Young Investigator award, an NSF CAREER award, selection for Technology Review’s ‘TR35’, election as a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society, and appointment as an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is the author of over 70 publications, reviews and book chapters, and an inventor on numerous patents.

Training and Education

  • 2002
    Postdoctoral Fellow, Immunology, Stanford University
  • 2000
    PhD, Polymer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 1995
    BS/BPhil, Engineering Physics, University of Pittsburgh

Research Interests

The Irvine laboratory works at the interface of materials science and immunology. They use synthetic model systems to study immune cell biology and synthesize new materials for vaccines/immunotherapy, using a mechanistic understanding of the immune system to guide the design of these materials.

They have pioneered the use of patterned surfaces as tools to dissect T-cell activation, using the ability to control the density, placement, and mobility of T-cell ligands, supported membranes or entire cells on surfaces to dissect the functions of the immunological synapse in T-cell triggering.

In a second focus, they study leukocyte chemotaxis/chemokinesis; they have discovered novel mechanisms for chemokine-mediated control of naïve lymphocyte migration, and shown that both T-cell and B cell migration in secondary lymphoid organs may be regulated by a complex interplay of chemokinesis and chemotaxis.

Building on these fundamental findings, they have developed chemokine-releasing microparticles and hydrogels as tools to study immune cell migration and adjuvants to modulate cell migration in vaccines and immunotherapy.

Finally, they have developed nanoparticles that can address key challenges in immunotherapy:

  • Vaccine particles that co-deliver high doses of antigen in concert with immunostimulatory ligands,
  • Nanoparticles that deliver proteins or oligonucleotides to the cytosol of dendritic cells without cytotoxicity,
  • Synthetic particles with surfaces structurally mimicking the envelope of pathogens.