Faculty and Research

personnel profile

James R. Swartz

Title:Professor; The James H. Clark Professor in the School of Engineering
Location:Keck 185
Mail Code:5025
E-mail: jswartz@stanford.edu
Administrator: Roosmery Yang

Research Statement

Using and Understanding Cell-Free Biology

Swartz Lab General Research Focus
The current and projected research in the Swartz lab balances basic research in microbial metabolism, protein expression, and protein folding with a strong emphasis on compelling applications. The power and versatility of cell-free methods coupled with careful evaluation and engineering of these new systems enables a whole new range of applications and scientific investigation. Fundamental research on: the mechanisms and kinetics of ribosomal function, fundamental bioenergetics, basic mechanisms of protein folding, functional genomics, and metabolic pathway analysis is motivated by a variety of near- and medium term applications spanning medicine, energy, and environmental needs.

Swartz Lab Application Foci
In the medical area , current research addresses the need for patient-specific vaccines to treat cancer. Particularly for lymphomas, there is a strong need to be able to make a new cancer vaccine for each patient. Current technologies are not practical for this demanding task, but cell-free approaches are rapid and inexpensive. We have already demonstrated feasibility in mouse tumor challenge studies and are now expanding the range of applications and working to improve the relevant technologies. Experience with these vaccines has also suggested a new and exciting format for making inexpensive and very potent vaccines for general use.

To address pressing needs for a new and cleaner energy source, we are working towards an organism that can efficiently capture solar energy and convert it into hydrogen. The first task is to develop an oxygen tolerant hydrogenase using cell-free technology to express libraries of mutated enzymes that can be rapidly screened for improved function. Even though these are very complex enzymes, we have produced active hydrogenases with our cell-free methods. We are now perfecting the screening methods for rapid and accurate identification of improved enzymes. After these new enzymes are identified, the project will progress toward metabolic engineering and bioreactor design research to achieve the scales and economies required.

To address environmental needs, we are developing an improved water filters using an amazing membrane protein, Aquaporin Z. It has the ability to reject all other chemicals and ions except water. We have efficiently expressed the protein into lipid bilayer vesicles and are now working to cast these membranes on porous supports to complete the development of a new and powerful water purification technology. The same lessons will be applied toward the development of a new class of biosensors that brings high sensitivity and selectivity.

PhD 1978 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Publication TitleAuthor(s)/Speaker(s)Open Document
High-level cell-free synthesis yields of proteins containing site-specific non-natural amino acids Goerke AR, Swartz JR
An integrated cell-free metabolic platform for protein production and synthetic biology Jewett MC, Calhoun KA, Voloshin A, Wuu JJ and Swartz JR
High yield cell-free production of integral membrane proteins without refolding or detergents Wuu, JJ and Swartz JR
Cell-free metabolic engineering promotes high-level production of bioactive Gaussia princeps luciferase Goerke AR, Loening AM, Gambhir SS, and Swartz JR
Escherichia coli-based cell-free synthesis of virus-like particles Bundy BC, Franciszkowicz MJ, and Swartz JR
Display All Publications

Academic Honors & Awards

  • Pfizer Fellowship in Biochemical Engineering, 1976
  • Florasynth Fellowship, Institute of Food Technologist, 1977
  • Served on National Research Council Committee on Bioprocess Engineering, 1991
  • Keynote Address at Inaugural Meeting of The American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers, 1992
  • Inducted as founding Fellow, The American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineerr, 1993
  • James Van Lanen Service Award from the Division of Biochemical Technology, American Chem. Soc., 1993
  • Keynote Address at Asia-Pacific Biochemical Engineering Conference, 1994
  • Keynote Adress, Biotech 2000 Meeting, Seoul, Korea, 1994
  • Co-Chair of Biochemical Engineering X. 1997
  • Elected to National Academy of Engineering, 1999
  • Opening Keynote Lecture, 2nd International Conference
  • Recombinant Protein Production with Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Host Cell, Cemobbio, Italy, 2002
  • Amgen Award, Society of Industrial Microbiology, 2005
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, S.Dak. School of Mines and Technology, 2005
  • Elmer Gaden Award, 2006
  • Leland T. Edwards Professor in the School of Engineering, 2006
  • Member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE)
  • Keynote Lecture, 20th Meeting for the European Society for Animal Cell Tech, Dresden, Germany, 2007
  • Opening Keynote Speaker, Recent Advances in Ferm Tech (RAFT VII), 2007, St. Pete Beach, Florida, 2007
  • The James Bailey Award, Soc for Biol. Eng. (Am Inst. For Chem. Eng.), 2008
  • James H. Clark Professor in the School of Engineering, 2009

Current Students

Ph.D. Students

  • Cem Albayrak
  • Alyssa Bingham
  • Wei Chan
  • Benjamin Ko
  • Ying Lei
  • Kunal Mehta
  • Stacey Shiigi
  • Phillip Smith
  • Christopher VanLang

Postdoctoral Researcher

  • Yuan Lu
  • Undergraduates

    • Mike Welch
    • Emily Wyatt