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 RSV, after being a pediatrician for over 50 years observing how hospitalized children suffer critical consequences of RSV infection, gave life to FruitVaccine Incorporated as a Start-Up company at the University of Illinois Research Park in January 2017, in Champaign, Illinois, USA, to develop a fruit-based vaccine for RSV, as the first project.

Our Goals

Our project involves development of an edible orally-administered fruit-based vaccine for human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV causes infectious disease affecting all humans, especially infants and the elderly. Here we are developing an edible, orally administered vaccine in a fruit (eg. cherry tomatoes) against RSV-caused disease in humans. 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) protein of RSV. The gene construct is transferred into the cherry tomato plant genome using microbial vector plasmids (Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated T-DNA binary vector). Specific promoters are employed to selectively or constitutively express the transferred gene in the fruits of the transgenic plants.  We currently are conducting genetic engineering/modifications of the gene constructs to stabilize the viral protein, in the aim to maximize its expression levels in the plant, and to enhance its persistence in the plant, during storage after harvest, and after ingestion.

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.
LinkedIn and Google Scholar

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. 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. 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. 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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Other Advisors

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.  He has worked primarily on large, federal grants from dozens of federal agencies and programs and has helped teach courses in grant writing to doctoral-level students at the University of Illinois. He has also completed the NSF Innovation-Corps (I-Corps) program as a business mentor and currently assists with I-Corps development at the University of Illinois. Mr. Garton has aided numerous companies in the transition from start-ups to viable, long-term enterprises.  Mr. Garton has helped companies establish Government-compliant financial and timekeeping systems, determine multi-tier indirect rate cost structures, and successfully pass audits from federal agencies such as the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) and the National Science Foundation Cost Analysis and Audit Resolution (CAAR) branch.
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