Our Mission: Perform cutting edge basic and translational research enabling medical innovation 
- Fueling cures.

The Applied Biomedical Science Institute (ABS Institute) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization taking a leading role in basic research and its rapid clinical translation by performing cutting-edge basic and translational research.  Importantly, we are developing the infrastructure for early stage biologic drug development and manufacturing.  We promote therapeutic and diagnostic translation through our own internal research, collaborations, or licensing activities.  The Institute also trains early stage researchers in biomedical research through post-doctoral fellow and internship programs.

Scientific Leadership

Vaughn V. Smider M.D., Ph.D.

Vaughn V. Smider M.D., Ph.D.  Professor and President.  Dr. Smider is the founder and President of ABS Institute and is an adjunct Professor at the Scripps Research Institute. He previously led a research laboratory in the Molecular Medicine department at Scripps from 2006-2018.  Dr. Smider has multiple publications in antibody molecular biology, genetics, and structure, as well as in DNA repair and cancer biology.  In these fields he also developed several groundbreaking technologies.  He was a founder and CSO of Fabrus (now NASDAQ: ELOX), the first company started in a pharmaceutical company incubator, The Pfizer Incubator, Taurus Biosciences (acquired by Ligand Pharmaceuticals, and now part of Ligand’s spin-out company, OmniAb Inc. (NASDAQ: OABI), and ABS Institute spin-out companies Minotaur Therapeutics and Enkefalos Biosciences.  Dr. Smider served on the leadership council for the American Cancer Society, is a founder of the Elizabeth Smider Foundation, and serves as an advisor to several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.  Dr. Smider received his M.D. and Ph.D. (Immunology) degrees from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

For Dr. Smider’s publications, see:


Laurent Verkoczy, Ph.D.

Laurent Verkoczy, Ph.D.  Professor.   Dr. Verkoczy and his group joined ABS in its early stages and established its vaccine research and development arm by bringing a vigorous in vivo immunology research program.   In addition, Dr. Verkoczy has entered into close collaborations with Dr.Smider’s group and several industry partners. Previously, Dr.Verkoczy was Associate Professor of Medicine and Pathology at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI), as well as Director of the Laboratory of B-cell Immunoregulation and the Mouse Immunology Core at DHVI. Dr.Verkoczy obtained his Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Toronto in 2000 and completed post-doctoral studies at the Scripps Research Institute in 2005. He serves as a reviewer for numerous reputable scientific journals and serves as a B-cell immunology editor for Vaccines and Frontiers in Immunology. Dr.Verkoczy also participates on multiple NIH review panels that either evaluate basic program or business grants seeking to develop broad-coverage anti-viral vaccines.


The Verkoczy lab at ABS currently focuses on three research areas: i) identifying signaling pathways controlling activation and maturation of B-cells expressing the precursors of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs), ii) using this information to develop vaccine strategies to reliably induce bnAb responses to challenging pathogens, including HIV, and iii) genetically engineering improvements in current in vivo models, in order to more rapidly and systematically identify and optimize lead vaccine regimens.  

For Dr.Verkoczy’s publications, see:


Duncan McGregor Ph.D.

Duncan McGregor Ph.D.  Associate Professor and Vice President, Discovery.   Duncan McGregor has extensive antibody and protein engineering experience in the biotechnology industry stretching back to the early nineties from bench level scientist to senior management and board level.   Prior to ABS Institute, Dr. McGregor founded Cyclogenix, which focused on discovering and developing cyclotide-based molecules as therapeutics. Until starting Cyclogenix he occupied the CSO role at Haptogen Ltd prior to its acquisition by Wyeth (now Pfizer) and was also on the board of Haptogen from 2002-2007. The company owned rights to a proprietary peptide & antibody phage display system (DBDx®), that he invented while working as Principal Research Scientist at Rowett Research Services Ltd in Aberdeen. Previously, Dr. McGregor was VP Research & Development at Isogenica Ltd, a peptide display technology company based in Cambridge, UK where he played a key role in inventing and commercializing Isogenica’s in vitro CIS-Display technology platform. Previously, Dr. McGregor was a project leader at Scotgen Biopharmaceuticals Ltd, responsible for successfully establishing antibody and peptide phage display technologies.  Dr. McGregor is a founder of Enkefalos Biosciences, and ABS Institute spin-out company, and is a consultant to several biotechnology companies in the area of antibody and peptide discovery.  Dr. McGregor earned his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen in Genetics.  


For Dr. McGregor’s publications, see:


Marilyn Diaz Ph.D.

Marilyn Diaz Ph.D. Associate Professor.  Dr. Marilyn Diaz is a molecular immunologist and evolutionary biologist. She obtained her Ph.D. in Evolution from the University of South Carolina, and trained as postdoctoral fellow in immunology at The University of Miami School of Medicine, University of Maryland at Baltimore Medical Center, and The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. She has received multiple awards for her research work including The Burroughs Welcome Fellow of the Life science Research Foundation award, The NIEHS (NIH) Early Career Award, and The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2002. 

Dr. Diaz has over 20 years of experience as a molecular immunologist specializing in the areas of immunoglobulin hypermutation mechanism, immune memory and affinity maturation through DNA deamination. As a principal investigator at the National Institutes of Health for 13 years and at Applied Biomedical Science Institute, her team identified a key role for error-prone DNA polymerases in immunoglobulin hypermutation following deamination of cytosines by activation-induced deaminase (AID). Her team also identified the role of DNA lesions in recruiting AID to the nucleus of germinal center B cells, discovered the regulation of AID by a nuclear export mechanism, and identified a novel GTPase that protects the genomes of germinal center B cells from AID-mediated DNA breaks. Dr. Diaz’s laboratory developed over 20 novel in vivo models of autoimmunity and for the study of immune responses in vivo.  Her laboratory also has a long-standing collaboration with Dr. Verkoczy’s laboratory in the design and antibody mutation analysis of novel knock-in models that overexpress either HIV-1 broadly neutralizing antibody specificities and/or components of the antibody somatic mutation machinery as well as B-cell survival pathways. Her group has recently expanded the research scope to include vaccine efforts against SARS-CoV-2 particularly universal vaccine concepts that elicit neutralizing to multiple variants.  In summary, the three main areas of research in the Diaz laboratory are: 1) mechanism of immune memory and somatic hypermutation 2) how autoimmunity acquired during B cell affinity maturation may limit our response to dangerous pathogens, and 3) development of novel vaccine concepts against HIV and SARS-CoV-2 viruses.

For Dr. Diaz’s publications, see:


Richard J. Ulevitch, Ph.D.

Richard J. Ulevitch, Ph.D.  Professor at ABS, and Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Immunology at the Scripps Research Institute. Dr. Ulevitch’s research focuses on the basic mechanisms of the innate immune response and of acute and chronic injury resulting from inflammation. He is the author of more than 200 scientific publications.

Among his seminal discoveries are the identification and characterization of LPS Binding Protein, elucidation of the function of CD14 and its role in recognition of bacterial products such as LPS, discovery of p38 MAP kinase and identification of upstream and downstream components in the activation pathway. This work has provided the basis for multiple clinical trials including the use of anti-human CD14 monoclonal antibody therapy in sepsis, COVID and ARDS and the development of novel p38 inhibitors that are being tested in various settings of acute and chronic inflammation in man.

For Dr. Ulevitch’s publications, see:


Fueling cures through basic research with medical impact