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Fabricating specialized oleosins: From surfactants to drug delivery to imaging


The fabrication of novel biomaterials can suffer from difficulty of fabrication or lack of control over the end product (e.g. uniformity of size of nanoparticle). Further, modern techniques have been developed to functionalize novel biomaterials, but these methods often require time, cost, and effort in post processing.


Taking a page from nature, Drs. Hammer and Lee have leveraged E. Coli to produce a plant protein (oleosin) whose normal biological role is to stabilize plant oil bodies. The result is a collection of nanoparticles of near uniform size. 

Technology Overview: 

The Hammer and Lee Labs have developed a method to produce oleosins and functionalized oleosins for a wide variety of applications from surfactants to a drug delivery vehicle to cancer cells. E. Coli can be can be transformed to fabricate oleosin or oleosin with additional molecules, including antibodies and GFP. 


  • Simple method to create functionalized nanoparticles (no post modification step)
  • Uniform size of nanoparticle across range of desired sizes
  • Nanoparticle size stable over days 


  • Coatings, Surfactant, Emulsifier
  • Vesicle/Nanoparticle
  • Microbubble for Ultrasound Usage
  • MRI Imaging/Theranostic Agent


Stage of Development: 

Proof-of-concept testing

Intellectual Property: 

Reference Media: 

  • Vargo et al. Small, 2015, 11(12), p. 1409-13.
  • Vargo et al. Langmuir, 2014, 30(38), p. 11292-300.
  • Vargo et al. PNAS, 2012, 109(29), p. 11657-62.

Desired Partnerships: 

  • License
  • Sponsored research

Patent Information:


Docket # X5754, 14-7127, 15-7195 

For Information, Contact:

Joshua Jeanson Associate Director, SEAS/SAS Licensing Group
University of Pennsylvania