J. Andrew MacKay

J. Andrew MacKay, PhD

Associate Professor

Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical SciencesCurriculum Vitae

Research Topics

  1. Biomolecular engineering
  2. Synthetic biology
  3. Protein polymers
  4. Nanomedicine
  5. Elastin-like polypeptides
  6. Liposomes
  7. Pharmacokinetics
  8. Cancer
  9. Ocular drug delivery

Contact Information


S.B. 1999 Chemical Engineering and Biology - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ph.D. 2005 Bioengineering - University of California at Berkeley/San Francisco
Ph.D. 2005 Bioengineering - University of California at Berkeley/San Francisco

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship:
2005 - 2008 Biomedical Engineering - Duke University

J. Andrew MacKay

Research Interest

Our lab engineers innovative protein-polymer tools and drug carriers that respond to their environment. Cancer and ocular drug delivery are our primary focus; however, we also develop biomaterials that modulate cell signaling and trafficking. Protein-polymers are repetitive polypeptides that can be expressed in cells, fused to functional peptides, and tuned to respond to cues such as temperature, concentration, or nanoassembly. Composed from genetically-engineered biomaterials, their sequence and behavior can be precisely tailored at the genetic level. Drug delivery in the eye and cancer is often limited by access to and retention at the target site. In addition, many small molecules are dose-limited by toxicity at peripheral sites in the body. Our strategy is to repackage drugs and functional peptides into protein-polymers that control release and reduce toxicity. Successful carrier strategies are being formulated and evaluated for translation to the clinic. Using these biomaterials, our group has recently made significant breakthroughs by assembling 'microdomains' inside living cells. When decorated with functional proteins, these microdomains are helping us to precisely modulate cellular biology. To explore the potential for these new tools, we explore fundamental relationships between microdomain phase behavior and interactions with other proteins, membranes, organelles, and cells. Please explore this website to learn more about our work.

Our work has been funded by the NIH/NEI, NIH/NIBIB, NIH/NIGMS, the US Army TATRC, the Stop Cancer Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the USC Research Center for Liver Disease, the USC Ming Hsieh Institute, the USC Steven's Institute, the Whittier Foundation, the Wright Foundation, the SC-CTSI, and the USC School of Pharmacy.


Dr. MacKay received his SB in chemical engineering and biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999. A Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellow, he completed his PhD at the University of California at San Francisco and Berkeley in the joint graduate group in Bioengineering in 2005. As a Kirschstein National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. MacKay studied at Duke University in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. In 2008 Dr. MacKay joined the faculty at the University of Southern California. Dr. MacKay is a full member of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has authored over 49 peer-reviewed publications. His work is and has been supported by the US Army, NIH/NIGMS, NIH/NIBIB, NIH/NEI, StopCancer, USC Ming Hsieh Institute, and the USC Whittier Foundation. His group explores biomolecular engineering and nanomedicine. At the USC School of Pharmacy, Dr. MacKay has deep expertise teaching drug delivery, nanoscience, and pharmacokinetics.

Selected Projects/Publications

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Aluri S, Pastuszka MK, Moses AS, MacKay JA. Elastin-like Peptide amphiphiles form nanofibers with tunable length. Biomacromolecules. 2012 Sep 10;13(9):2645-54. Epub 2012 Aug 21. PubMed

Shah M, Hsueh PY, Sun G, Chang HY, Janib SM, MacKay JA. Biodegradation of elastin-like polypeptide nanoparticles. Protein Sci. 2012 Jun;21(6):743-50. doi: 10.1002/pro.2063. Epub 2012 May 14. PubMed

Sun G, Hsueh PY, Janib SM, Hamm-Alvarez S, MacKay JA. Design and cellular internalization of genetically engineered polypeptide nanoparticles displaying adenovirus knob domain. J Control Release. 2011 Oct 30;155(2):218-26. Epub 2011 Jun 14.

Janib SM, Moses AS, MacKay JA. Imaging and drug delivery using theranostic nanoparticles. Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2010 Aug 30;62(11):1052-63. Epub 2010 Aug 13.

MacKay JA, Callahan DJ, Fitzgerald KN, Chilkoti A. Quantitative Model of the Phase Behavior of Recombinant pH-Responsive Elastin-Like Polypeptides. Biomacromolecules. 2010 Oct 6. [Epub ahead of print]

MacKay JA, Chen M, McDaniel JR, Liu W, Simnick AJ, Chilkoti A. Self-assembling chimeric polypeptide-doxorubicin conjugate nanoparticles that abolish tumours after a single injection. Nat Mater. 2009 Dec;8(12):993-9. Epub 2009 Nov 8.

MacKay JA, Li W, Huang Z, Dy EE, Huynh G, Tihan T, Collins R, Deen DF, Szoka FC Jr. HIV TAT peptide modifies the distribution of DNA nanolipoparticles following convection-enhanced delivery. Mol Ther. 2008 May;16(5):893-900. Epub 2008 Mar 11.

Lee CC, MacKay JA, Fréchet JM, Szoka FC. Designing dendrimers for biological applications. Nat Biotechnol. 2005 Dec;23(12):1517-26.

MacKay JA, Deen DF, Szoka FC Jr. Distribution in brain of liposomes after convection enhanced delivery; modulation by particle charge, particle diameter, and presence of steric coating. Brain Res. 2005 Feb 28;1035(2):139-53. Epub 2005 Jan 28.

Martin I, Shastri VP, Padera RF, Yang J, Mackay JA, Langer R, Vunjak-Novakovic G, Freed LE. Selective differentiation of mammalian bone marrow stromal cells cultured on three-dimensional polymer foams. J Biomed Mater Res. 2001 May;55(2):229-35.