Computerized cell model Targeting cells

Dr. Barry's team engineers new ways to get genes into cells and amplify those genes and the proteins that they produce. Most recently, they've applied this technology to SARS-CoV-2 using novel vaccine vectors called single-cycle adenoviruses being studies in Phase 1 clinical trials.


For any drug, diagnostic or gene therapy application, the ultimate goal is to target these agents to the cells in need of detection or therapy while avoiding delivery into nontarget tissues. While this is the goal, many of these agents cannot specifically target the desired cells and frequently mistarget into problematic tissues reducing therapy and increasing dangerous side effects.

Mayo Clinic's Virology, Vector and Vaccine Engineering Laboratory led by Michael A. Barry, Ph.D., works on developing safer and more-specific therapeutics and vaccines, with an emphasis on developing agents that target specific cells in the body. For gene therapy applications, the lab's aim is to enhance the specificity of vectors to increase therapeutic delivery to the cells in need of genetic modification, while reducing gene delivery into bystander cells. For gene-based vaccine applications, the current goal is to identify potent antigens and enhance the ability of vaccines to deliver antigens into mucosal sites and into dendritic cells to maximize barrier protection at mucosal surfaces against HIV-1, influenza and bioweapons.

Toward these cell goals, the team is interested in developing:

  1. High-throughput systems to identify cell-targeting ligands to target drugs, diagnostics, vaccines and gene delivery vectors
  2. Developing genetic and chemical engineering approaches to translate cell-targeting ligands rapidly and effectively onto gene therapy vectors
  3. Developing genetic and chemical engineering of viral vectors to reduce promiscuous cell interactions and to blunt dangerous immunological side effects
  4. Developing effective methods to track and screen cell-targeting ligands and cell-targeting vectors by imaging in living animals
  5. Vaccine antigen discovery and optimization using expression library immunization

About Dr. Barry

Michael A. Barry, Ph.D., is an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Barry explores avenues for enhancing vaccines to target pandemic infectious diseases and using virotherapy for metastatic cancer.