One of eight faculty members to be awarded tenure by MIT’s School of Engineering last year, J. Christopher (Chris) Love, TJ ’95, leads a team of interdisciplinary researchers who combine principles and techniques from surface chemistry, materials science, physics, and chemical engineering to develop new micro- and nanotechnologies for addressing biological questions in immunology, microbiology, systems biology, and bioprocess engineering.
The Love Lab’s general areas of current research are:
- improving global access to biologic drugs used to treat cancers and inflammatory diseases, including manufacturing on demand;
- developing approaches to understand B cell and T cell responses in autoimmunity (multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes), vaccinology, and food allergy; and
- understanding how rare cells can inform better drug discovery and patient care in cancer.
In the fall of 2013, the Love Lab received a $10.4 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a way to make small batches of biologic drugs (drugs made from living cells, in this case yeast) in 24 hours versus the 6 to 12-month time-frame of current processes. The research team’s goal is to create a tabletop drug manufacturing system that could be deployed virtually anywhere (prototype at right, picture courtesy Boston Globe). According to Dr. Love, the ability to make such drugs quickly, precisely, and on-site could revolutionize drug manufacturing the way 3-D printers are revolutionizing the manufacture of solid parts. In addition to being able to make drugs for soldiers wounded in action, the process could be used to produce specialized therapeutics for patients with rare conditions and to improve access in the developing world where cold storage and transportation issues limit drug availability.
Dr. Love obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from UVA in 1999 and his PhD in Physical Chemistry from Harvard in 2004. He then held a postdoc position in immunology at Harvard Medical School. Currently an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, Dr. Love is also associated with the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard. In 2010, he was featured in Popular Science as one of its “Brilliant 10,” and has received numerous awards for teaching and scholarship.
While a TJ student, Dr. Love was already making headway toward a career in novel research techniques. As a summer intern at MITRE, he wrote a paper on theoretical designs for molecules that could act as electrical devices, later published as “Overview of Nanoelectronic Devices,” Proceedings of the IEEE 85(4), 521-540 (1997). Dr. James Ellenbogen, Director of MITRE’s Nanosystems Group, sent it to Harvard’s Professor George Whitesides, the world’s most cited living chemist, who five years later became Dr. Love’s thesis advisor.
Dr. Love credits TJ’s Mentorship Program with giving him an early opportunity to discover his passion and talent for research. “My experience at TJHSST provided both self-confidence and professional networking through the Mentorship Program that were instrumental in my development as a young scientist. I was encouraged to engage as a high school student directly in challenging questions in the field of nanoelectronics at its inception, and to develop a scientific curiosity that has continued with me in my career,” he said.
In fact, in Dr. Love’s opinion, there is no high school quite like TJ: “During my graduate training, I was working with, or at the same school as, about ten others from TJHSST. These individuals are now leading top research programs in biology, materials science, and chemistry, or are successful entrepreneurs in start-up companies. More recently, I hired a TJ ’09 grad to work in my lab, where he spent a productive year before embarking on a PhD program at Harvard. I am not sure that there is a single high school program that has had as deep an impact on the current culture of academic research and entrepreneurism as TJ.”