The Audacious Project
Impact 2020
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Institute for Protein Design

Institute for Protein Design

The Institute for Protein Design (IPD) is accelerating the pace of discovery and dissemination of new protein technology, focusing on five Grand Challenges that include: the development of universal flu vaccines; treatments for HIV, cancer, chronic pain and neurodegenerative diseases; and smart proteins that can recognize cancerous cells. By expanding the Institute and doubling its faculty, IPD will lead a protein design revolution to change the way drugs, vaccines and materials are made.

Main photo caption: Scientists at IPD have developed a nanoparticle vaccine candidate forCOVID-19, shown to be ultrapotent in mice. / Institute for Protein Design
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Institute for Protein Design



In recent months, IPD’s work has been critical in the fight against COVID-19, harnessing the power of proteins in the development of vaccines, antivirals and new diagnostic technologies. IPD’s most promising vaccine candidates have been licensed to two companies, Icosavax and SK Bioscience (royalty-free for five years), with human clinical trials set to begin in 2021.

IPD continues to make advancements on its five Grand Challenges:

  • The institute has developed an artificial scaffolding that could help develop vaccines formed in an unprecedentedly-precise way. This precision could ultimately lead to more efficient and protective vaccines against viruses that cause AIDS, the flu and COVID-19.
  • They have also designed tiny protein pores that allow cells to take in certain chemicals, including charged ions and larger fluorescent molecules. This could enable new forms of drug delivery and allow for better control over the electrical activity of living cells.
  • Additionally, IPD has created Co-LOCKR, a new tool that can precisely target cells, including those that look almost exactly like their neighbors. When it comes into contact with a targeted cell, Co-LOCKR becomes a beacon that can guide a predetermined biological activity, like directing T cells to destroy a tumor cell.

“The coronavirus pandemic provided a serious test of our research capabilities. With support from The Audacious Project, we were able to not only endure the pandemic but also take up the fight to stop it. Our researchers quickly pivoted to developing vaccines, antivirals, and new diagnostic technologies for the novel coronavirus.”

David Baker, Institute for Protein Design

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