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Kar Muthumani, Ph.D.

Kar Muthumani, Ph.D.


The Muthumani Laboratory



Assistant Professor, Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center

Director, Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases

About the Scientist

Muthumani's research interest is in the area of immune approaches to emerging infectious diseases and immune therapy approaches for the treatment cancer.  He has made several important contributions in this area including identifying a new strain of CHIKV virus, identification of host cellular targets of HIV accessory genes, new novel DNA vaccine approaches for HIV, CHIKV, RSV, Dengue, MERS and Zika among others.

Muthumani received his B.S., M.Sc. with honors and his Ph.D. from the Madurai Kamaraj University, India. He completed his postdoctoral training and Research Assistant Professorship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He joined The Wistar Institute in 2016 as an Assistant Professor.

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The Muthumani Laboratory

There are still many deadly diseases without approved vaccines. Over the past 25 years, multiple platforms have been developed in attempts to create vaccines that can effectively induce protective immunity to these pathogens. One promising platform is DNA vaccination, the safety of which has been well documented in numerous clinical settings. The simplicity of DNA plasmid engineering and production as compared to that of live attenuated and killed viral vaccines makes DNA vaccines an attractive technology. Unlike traditional vaccines, DNA vaccines are very stable at ambient temperatures and therefore are ideal candidates for distribution in resource-poor communities where serious infectious pathogens remain endemic and traditional vaccines would require a cold-chain for transportation and storage. The research of the Muthumani laboratory is expected to yield synthetic DNA constructs that can be administered alone or in combination with biological monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to offer broad, rapid, and sustained protection against pathogen and cancer targets.


Postdoctoral Fellow

Peng Xiao, Ph.D.

Research Assistants

Hyeree Choi
Michelle Ho

Research Technician

Kanika Asija


Directing immune responses against emerging infectious diseases

The lab specializes in the development of novel DNA vaccines and therapeutics that target emerging infectious diseases. Using enhanced DNA technology, the lab has designed DNA vaccines that drive immune responses in prophylactic or therapeutic settings against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Dengue (DV), Chikungunya virus (CHIKV), Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, and Zika Virus (ZV). The lab is characterizing the quantity and quality (i.e. B and T cell) of the immune responses induced or generated by these DNA plasmids in order to improve their ability to mediate virus neutralization and clearance.

Development of a novel plasmid-encoded IgG immunotherapeutic platform as a new tool for cancer treatment

The lab is developing a novel gene delivery system to produce anti-tumor and immunomodulatory antibodies in vivo for cancer treatment. This approach may be less expensive than existing anti-tumor monoclonal antibody delivery methods. Additionally, delivering these antibodies with DNA plasmid technology may increase duration of antibody expression in vivo and allowing for simple combination formulations in the absence of a host anti-vector immune response. Some targets of interest include the tumor antigens HER2 and PSMA, as well as the immune checkpoint proteins PD-1 and Lag3.

Selected Publications

Tebas, P., Roberts, C.C., Muthumani, K., Reuschel, E.L., Kudchodkar, S.B., Zaidi, F.I., White, S., Khan, A.S., Racine, T., Choi, H., Boyer, J., Park, Y.K., Trottier, S., Remigio, C., Krieger, D., Spruill, S.E., Bagarazzi, M., Kobinger, G.P., Weiner, D.B., Maslow, J.N."Safety and Immunogenicity of an Anti-Zika Virus DNA Vaccine - Preliminary Report." N Engl J Med. 2017 Oct 4. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1708120. [Epub ahead of print]

Griffin, B.D., Muthumani, K., Kobinger, G.P., et al. "DNA vaccination protects mice against Zika virus-induced damage to the testes." Nat Commun. 2017 Jun 7;8:15743. doi: 10.1038/ncomms15743.

Muthumani, K., Griffin, B.D., Weiner, D.B., et al. "In vivo protection against ZIKV infection and pathogenesis through passive antibody transfer and active immunisation with a prMEnv DNA vaccine." NPJ Vaccines. 2016 Nov 10;1:16021. doi: 10.1038/npjvaccines.2016.21. eCollection 2016.

Muthumani, K., Block, P., Weiner, D.B., et al. "Rapid and Long-Term Immunity Elicited by DNA-Encoded Antibody Prophylaxis and DNA Vaccination Against Chikungunya Virus." J Infect Dis. 2016 Aug 1;214(3):369-78. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiw111. Epub 2016 Mar 21.

Muthumani, K., Falzarano, D., Weiner, D.B., et al. "A synthetic consensus anti-spike protein DNA vaccine induces protective immunity against Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in nonhuman primates." Sci Transl Med. 2015 Aug 19;7(301):301ra132. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aac7462.

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