About Us

Our History

The strong inclination of Dr. Dennis Buetow, Dr. Indu Rupassara and the Research Advisory Committee, to use natural food products as vaccines, and Dr. Kathleen Buetow’s knowledge of the dire need of a vaccine for the human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV), after being a pediatrician for over 50 years observing how hospitalized children suffer critical consequences of hRSV infection, gave life to FruitVaccine Incorporated as a Start-Up company at the University of Illinois Research Park in 2017, in Champaign, Illinois, USA, to develop a fruit-based vaccine for hRSV, as the first project. For infants, a vaccine composed of oral-drops is being developed.

Our Goals

Our project involves development of an edible orally-administered fruit-based vaccine, with oral-drop vaccines for infants, against human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV). hRSV causes infectious disease affecting all humans, especially infants and the elderly. No vaccine for RSV disease in humans is available in the market, and no fruit-based edible vaccine for any disease exists at present. A non-invasive edible fruit-based vaccine will have no toxicities, side-effects, or pain (oral), as potentially associated with injectable vaccines. Also, compared with injectable vaccines, edible plant-based vaccines are environmentally friendly, and minimize transportation costs (can be locally grown/sold) and hospital visits. The FruitVaccine technology will be applicable to additional infectious diseases, and other fruits. We transform cherry tomato plants with a gene construct encoding the immunogenic fusion (F, engineered to improve stability) protein of hRSV. The gene construct is transferred into the cherry tomato plant genome using microbial vector plasmids (Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated T-DNA binary vector). The cherry tomato fruits of the transgenic plants become the edible vaccine against hRSV.

Our Team

Dr. Buetow received the PhD degree in 1959 from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  His first professional position was as Biologist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and at Baltimore City Hospitals in Maryland from 1959 to 1965.  In 1965, he was employed as Associate Professor with tenure in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics (now Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Illinois.  He was Head of this Department in 1983-1988 and Interim Head in 1991-1992.  Currently, he is Professor Emeritus in this Department where he continues to do research on a daily basis.
Professor Buetow was elected as a Fellow of the Gerontological Society and as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, He has served on numerous national and University committees and was Editor for the Academc Press series “Cell Biology, a Series of Monographs” with 52 monographs published in this series.  He has presented numerous seminars and addresses in the USA, Europe and Asia.  Professor Buetow has edited 5 books and has authored and co-authored 114 book chapters and journal articles on his research. His research has been supported by grants from the NIH, NSF, McKnight Foundation and the SOHIO-University of Illinois Center for Excellence.

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Dr. Rupassara received her PhD in Metabolomics/Biotechnology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), USA, in 2008. She also received MS degrees from the UIUC and University of Sydney, Australia, in Microbiology and Biochemistry. Her BSc degree is from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Dr. Rupassara has presented talks in conferences in the USA, Europe, Australia, and Asia, in addition to publicizing her research in journal articles and book-chapters. She has been previously employed as a Researcher, Consultant, Metabolomist/Mass Spectrometrist, Lab Director, and a Lecturer, in the USA, Australia, and Sri Lanka. Dr. Rupassara’s multidisciplinary research expertise includes biotechnology, microbiology, immunology, analytical biochemistry, metabolomics and other ‘omics’ technologies, peptide and protein chemistry, nutritional sciences, and molecular biology using a wide array of biological systems such as humans, animals (mice, rats, dogs, and pigs), plants, and microorganisms.
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Research Advisors/Consultants/collaborators

Dr. Arntzen is an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors. He received the USDA Award for Superior Service, and served as chairman of the National Biotechnology Policy Board of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Arntzen’s primary research interests have been in plant molecular biology and protein engineering, as well as the utilization of plant biotechnology for enhancement of food quality and value, for expression of pharmacologically active products in transgenic plants. He has been recognized as a pioneer in the development of plant-based vaccines for human disease prevention, and for disease prevention in animal agriculture.

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Dr. Moore brings 30 years of biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and clinical diagnostic industry experience from global companies, Baxter Healthcare Corp and Abbott Laboratories, in R&D product development.  During his career, he has held various roles in CMC pre-clinical product development for recombinant therapeutic proteins and for IV parenteral small molecule products in Analytical Method Development, Stability Testing, Formulation, as well as leading overall pre-clinical product development for a recombinant therapeutic protein product.

In 2014, Ed co-founded BioPhia Consulting, Inc., with three others, and today the company has 15 science and technology subject matter experts in various areas of biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and medical device product development.  Ed also mentors start-up companies at EnterpriseWorks, the University of Illinois incubator.

Ed has PhD degree in Physical Biochemistry from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, and received BS in Biochemistry from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

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Dr. Buetow received an MD from the University of Maryland in 1954 and subsequently did a Pediatric Residency at Baltimore City Hospitals and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She then returned to Baltimore to pursue a Doctor of Public Health degree at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health with her thesis work on the topic of Neonatal Mortality. She became a diplomat of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 1959, and has been a member of the AAP since then. She is also a member of their sub-committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Since 1965, she has been a Pediatric Physician on the staff of Carle Foundation Hospital and a member of the Carle Physician Group in Urbana, Illinois. As a Carle staff member she has also served as Head of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign from 1986-2007 and continues on medical school committees as an Emeritus Professor of Clinical Pediatrics. She is also a 20-year member of the University of Illinois Institutional Review Board (IRB). During her years at Carle, Kathleen Buetow has been particularly interested in fostering appropriate immunization practices and serves on Carle’s Immunization Committee. She has a special interest in Child Protection and is involved in many multidisciplinary efforts to prevent, identify and treat instances of child abuse and neglect. She has been involved for the past 20 years on a state Child Death Review Team which seeks to identify and remedy problems associated with Child Mortality.

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Dr. Mason was the first to publish peer-reviewed work on the use of plants for production of vaccine antigens, showing expression of authentic hepatitis B surface antigen in tobacco (Mason et al., 1992). He was a leader in this field for many years and continue to publish work in plant-based vaccines (Kim et al., 2015). With funding from NIH-NIAID, Dr. Mason focused on oral delivery of vaccines for enteric diseases including Norwalk virus (Mason et al., 1996) and enterotoxic E. coli (Haq et al., 1995), and demonstrated oral immunogenicity in mice after ingestion of transgenic potato tuber.

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Dr. Wilson is a Professor of Microbiology and Associate Director of Undergraduate Education in the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with a joint appointment in Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA. She is also an Inaugural Professor in the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Dr. Wilson earned her B.A. degree in Biochemistry and German from Barnard College, Columbia University, in New York, and her M.S.-Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where she studied β-lactam antibiotics. Dr. Wilson began her studies on bacterial protein toxins as a microbiology postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. Her first tenured faculty appointment was in Biochemistry at Wright State University School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. In 1999, she joined the Department of Microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on host-microbe interactions: studying the structure and function and molecular evolution of bacterial protein toxins, their molecular interactions with and biochemical effects on eukaryotic host target cells; developing novel post-exposure antitoxin therapeutics and toxin-based therapeutic delivery platforms; and exploiting comparative and functional genomic technologies to study extensively drug resistant bacteria and microbiomes in health and disease.

Erik Nelson received his Bachelors of Science from the University of Calgary, majoring in zoology and minoring in chemistry. He continued at the University of Calgary, receiving a PhD in comparative endocrinology. He then moved to Duke University School of Medicine to pursue postdoctoral studies specializing in pharmacology and cancer biology. In 2014, he was recruited to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology. His research program is focused on how hormones and cholesterol metabolism impact breast and ovarian cancer progression. In recognition of his research, Dr. Nelson has been awarded the Government of Alberta Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship, a Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program Postdoctoral Fellowship Award, and a National Cancer Institute Pathway to Independence Award.

Dr. Sandhu obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge, UK, in 1996. He conducted postgraduate research on transfer of the RSV fusion-protein into plants, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1996-2000, in Buetow-lab), and then as a biotechnologist at the Punjab Agricultural University, India, where he is employed at present.
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Dr. Solbiati is currently conducting research at the University of Florida. He also served at the University of Illinois for over 10 years after being employed both in Argentina and Spain upon completion of his PhD in Argentina. Dr. Solbiati has been collaborating with Dr. Dennis Buetow and Dr. Indu Rupassara on the research related to genetic engineering to stabilize the RSV gene.
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Dr. McKim is an assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He completed his doctoral and postdoctoral training at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center with a focus on neuroendocrine regulation of hematopoiesis using mouse models. Dr. McKim currently runs a research lab studying the interactions between lifestyle factors, hematopoiesis, and chronic health conditions. Dr. McKim contributes to the FruitVaccine team with expertise in animal modeling for immunology research and employs relevant techniques including flow cytometry, single cell transcriptomics, and functional assays.
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Other Advisors

Nancy Sullivan serves as the CEO and Managing Director of IllinoisVENTURES, LLC. With over 15 years of experience in the commercialization and entrepreneurial sector, Nancy leads the IllinoisVENTURES, LLC investment portfolio. Ms. Sullivan oversees $75 million + in assets under management. Nancy promotes the development of new companies commercializing complex technologies by assisting the companies in obtaining venture capital funding, recruiting management talent and obtaining necessary business services. Nancy earned her MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a Master’s in Biotechnology, from Northwestern. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Loyola University.
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Mr. Garton has over three decades of experience with grant development, program and project management, training and documentation, and administration.  His professional work experience includes both university and small business employment, with specialties in computer-based education, software development, process improvement, and computer security products at the operating system level. He has helped develop successful grants totaling millions of dollars for employers and scores of clients.
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Alan Singleton provides legal services to business clients in the areas of corportate formation and transactions, intellectual property, securities law, real estate and immigration. He has over 25 years of experience working with entrepreneurs to develop solutions to the whole variety of business and legal issues they face in establinghing and growing their companies. Through his commitment to serving the needs of clients, Alan has established a reputation as one of the leading advocates for technology transfer and early stage companies in East Central Illinois.
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Dennis, a CPA, is an experienced technology entrepreneur, and investor. has been involved throughout his career with businesses of all sizes as a Manager for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Controller for SLM Aminco, CFO for Segno Communications, CFO and CEO for the Home Recovery Group of Companies, a Partner with Blakeman and Beard, LLC, CPA’s, and a Partner and CFO with Open Prairie Ventures. As a CPA, Dennis has served a wide range of clients including Caterpillar, Shell Oil Company, George Soros’ Quantum Fund, and Continental Illinois National Bank. As a healthcare industry CEO, he has served as President of a statewide industry trade association.
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Technical Support Professionals

This website is a product of the EnterpriseWorks Shared Services Program. Shared Services provides participating startups with free assistance on short-term projects, including business development, human resources, communications, website development, multi-media, social media, graphic design and industrial design.


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Developing the Business, strategy, and technical plans.

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