Jessica Stark

Engineering (Glyco)immunology

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineer

Jessica Stark head shot

Immunoengineering promises to yield the next generation of therapies for unmet medical needs in infectious disease, autoimmunity, and cancer. A key challenge in the immunoengineering field is our limited understanding of how the immune system recognizes and responds to glycoconjugates. Glycoconjugates – biopolymers decorated with sugars, or glycans – coat the surface of every cell and play central roles in immunology. For example, glycoconjugates regulate immune cell trafficking, modulate immune cell activation, and represent molecular patterns that define self and non-self. The chemical structures of appended glycans are often altered in disease states and can contribute to pathogenesis by modulating immune responses. Thus, glycoconjugates represent a vast set of attractive, yet mostly untapped, disease-specific antigens and targets for immunotherapy.

My work has resulted in a suite of high-throughput and modular technologies for elucidating and engineering the immune response to glycoconjugates. I engineered a cell-free technology for on-demand and portable production of glycoconjugate vaccines. Cell-free synthesized vaccines protected mice from lethal pathogen challenge via induction of glycan-specific immune responses. My cell-free approach can further be used for rapid and facile biosynthesis of glycoproteins bearing a variety of user-specified glycan structures, which promises to accelerate interrogation of their immunomodulatory properties. My current work focuses on identifying and targeting glycoconjugates that allow cancer cells to evade anti-tumor immune responses. Specifically, I developed a new class of antibody-lectin bispecifics that enhance anti-tumor immune responses in vitro. The bispecific platform is modular and can be applied to diverse disease- or cell type-specific antigens and lectin (glycan-binding) immunoreceptors. In parallel, I established an interaction proteomics pipeline to define tumor-associated glycoconjugates that engage inhibitory glycan-binding immunoreceptors called Siglecs, revealing new targets for cancer immunotherapy. Collectively, my work has helped elucidate the roles of immunomodulatory glycoconjugates in disease and promises to accelerate development of new vaccines and immunotherapies.

Connect with Me

Glycosylated protein production

Postdoc, Stanford University


Research Adviser: Prof. Carolyn Bertozzi


Ph.D., Northwestern University

Chemical & Biological Engineering

Research Adviser: Prof. Michael Jewett


Management Certificate, Northwestern University

Kellogg School of Management


B.S., Cornell University

Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, cum laude

Research Adviser: Prof. Matthew DeLisa


Jewett Lab at Northwestern University

American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow


National Cancer Institute F32 Postdoctoral Fellow


Northwestern University Chemical Engineering Distinguished Graduate Researcher Award


National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow


National Institute of Health Biotechnology Training Program Fellow


The Henry Luce Foundation Clare Boothe Luce Graduate Fellow, awarded by the Society of Women Engineers


Irwin and Joan Jacobs Engineering Scholar


Silverman Hall at Northwestern University

Genentech, Inc.

gRED Infectious Diseases

May 2013-Aug 2013

Early Stage Pharmaceutical Development

May 2012-Apr 2013

Analytical Operations

May 2011-Aug 2011

NIH ARRA Research Experience for Undergraduates

University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Pharmacy

May 2010-Aug 2010

Spies Research Group

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Biochemistry

Aug 2007-Aug 2009