Drug Delivery Research
Researchers at Northeastern are collaborating across disciplines to reimagine drug delivery. The combination of outside-the-box collaborations and innovative technologies to tackle health challenges is just one example of the University’s excellence in use-inspired research.
Advances in drug delivery are part of Northeastern’s mission to identify solutions to global challenges like health, security, and sustainability.
Northeastern’s Leading Drug Delivery Researchers
Vladimir Torchilin, distinguished professor of pharmaceutical sciences, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Nanomedicine
Research focus: Torchilin is looking at how drug delivery systems can be improved by pharmaceutical nanotechnology.
Recent grants: $13.5 million from the National Institutes of Health for the Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence; a grant of $1.5 million from the National Institutes of Health for intracellular drug delivery; a $1.36 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Cancer Institute to examine a new, nanotechnology-based method of drug delivery.
Heather Clark , associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences
Research focus: Clark is focusing on the development of fluorescent nanosensors to detect measures of chemical components, both in test tubes and in living organisms. One such medical “tattoo” – nanosensors injected into the upper layer of skin – would allow diabetic patients to continuously monitor glucose levels by scanning the tattoo with a light attached to a smartphone.
Recent grants: $862,182 over three years from the National Institutes of Health/ National Institute of General Medical Sciences; $327,260 from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; $10,000 from the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, a nonprofit consortium of Boston’s leading teaching hospitals.
Mansoor Amiji, distinguished professor and chair of the department of pharmaceutical sciences
Research focus: Amiji is leading interdisciplinary research into nanotechnology-based methods of drug delivery that could provide breakthroughs in treating diseases like cancer, inflammatory ailments, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and HIV/AIDS.
Recent grants: $13.5 million from the National Institutes of Health for the Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence; $2.1 million from the National Science Foundation to train doctoral students in nanomedicine science and technology; $2.32 mil¬lion over five years from the Cancer Nanotechnology Platform Partnership program; $475,000 over two years from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke to examine a system of delivery that will allow drugs to cross the blood-brain barrier; $360,000 over two years from the National Cancer Institute to develop more potent thera¬pies for killing cancer cells that become resistant after initial chemotherapeutic treatment.
Graham Jones, chair of the department of chemistry and chemical biology, associate director of Northeastern’s Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis
Research focus: Jones is investigating targeted ways to deliver antitumor drugs. He also testified in November 2010 at a U.S. Food and Drug Administration hearing on “biosimilars,” giving Northeastern the opportunity to participate in shaping public policy around this fast-growing segment of the pharmaceutical industry.
Recent grants: $1.8 million from the Department of Energy to look for more rapid ways to test drugs at the preclinical stage; $500,000 from the National Institutes of Health to develop a line of chemical agents that target certain tumors that are typically difficult to treat.
Shashi Murthy , associate professor and associate chair of chemical engineering
Research focus: Murthy is focusing on the design of microfluidic devices for applications in clinical diagnostics and regenerative medicine. His research centers on microfluidic isolation of stem/progenitor cells from blood and tissue, and cell surface and intracellular phenomena during microfluidic flow.
Recent grants: $1.9 million grant over three years from the National Institutes of Health to develop innovative tech¬niques for isolating and cultivating stem cells for use in the replacement of dam¬aged tissue; $484,788 from the National Science Foundation to help better un¬derstand the role of cell surface markers in microfluidic cell separation.
Numerous grants are helping to fund health research that harnesses the power of nanotechnology. Pharmaceutical sciences professor Mansoor Amiji, for instance, is leading research into drug delivery that could revolutionize treatment of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and HIV/AIDS.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently awarded so-called R21 grants to enable the work of Amiji and his collaborators from the Colleges of Science and Engineering.
A two-year, $350,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute will help fund research of nanomedicine techniques for killing cancer cells. Amiji, working with chemistry and chemical biology professors Robert Hanson and Max Diem, will explore whether including the cell killer ceramide as a part of chemotherapy will kill tumor cells that are resistant to other treatments. Using nanocarrier technology, the combination treatment would be delivered directly inside a cancer cell to trigger cell death.
A two-year, $475,000 grant from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke was awarded to Amiji and Professor Rebecca Carrier, which will help them to examine a delivery system that will allow drugs to cross the blood-brain barrier.
The process could greatly increase the recovery chances of a patient with Parkinson’s or HIV/AIDS, Amiji said, because “having a system to get these drug therapies to their appropriate place of action is critical.”
The new system could vastly improve the treatment of those diseases that tend to “hide” in the brain, using it as a sanctuary. “If we can take the drug to where the virus is hiding, we will have better therapeutic effects,” said Amiji.
TWEEZERS FOR DRUG DELIVERY
Constantinos Mavroidis, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, oversees Northeastern’s research in bionano robotics, which harnesses the power of peptides, DNA strands, and other naturally occurring “molecular machines.”
One of Mavroidis’s projects involves a V-shaped coiled protein dubbed the nano-tweezer, which opens and closes like tweezer arms when pH levels are altered. Among other uses, it could potentially be used to open and close tiny channels in a drug-delivery device.
Mavroidis and other researchers, including associate chemistry professor David Budil, worked on methods for manipulating the tweezer-like protein. Mavroidis worked on development and design. Budil figured out how to measure the force with which the arms open and close by attaching a magnetic molecule to each arm.
For more information about research at Northeastern, visit northeastern.edu/research or northeastern.edu/governmentrelations, or contact Tim Leshan, vice president for government relations, 617.373.8528, firstname.lastname@example.org.