Research Program

Our lab is investigating the use of polymer-protein conjugates in hydrogels or on surfaces for in vivo localized delivery of biologics, blood filtering bioreactors, and bio-inks for 3D printing of tissue mimics.

Localized Delivery of Biologics from Injectable Hydrogels

We are designing drug delivery systems for the sustained and localized release of biologics from injectable hydrogels using affinity and competitive affinity release system. The close proximity of the hydrogel to disease sites allows for efficient drug uptake, and long term drug release greatly extends the length of therapeutic benefit from a single injection. These systems are useful for cancer immunotherapy by delivery immune modulating molecules (e.g. checkpoint inhibitors), treatment of degenerative retinal diseases with anti-angiogenic molecules (e.g. anti-VEGF antibodies) and other chronic diseases such as diabetes. These systems have the potential to improve health outcomes while also increasing patient comfort. We are actively pursuing the delivery of biologics in the central nervous system for cancer immunotherapies.

Bio-inks for 3D Printed Tissue Mimics

In vitro tissue mimics have the potential to faithfully recreate biological tissue structure and function. Engineered tissues are being used to increase drug screening efficiency, better understand complex mechanisms of disease, and create implantable tissues to replace diseased or worn-out organs. Current bio-inks lack the complexity to mimic the dynamic chemical and mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix of tissues. We are designing in situ gelling polymers that form cell-hydrogel constructs with defined architectures upon printing. The chemical and mechanical properties can be tuned over time by controlling physical interactions between polymers and biomolecules or the controlled hydrolysis of covalent bonds.

Bioreactors for Patient in-line Blood Filtration

The selective, low fouling, filtration of biological fluids to modulate blood composition and immune response during bacterial or viral infections remains an important area of investigation and represents an immediate unmet clinical need. Currently, the selective filtration of molecules is challenging due to the limitations of filtration techniques that remove molecules based on size or charge. To improve this, polymer-protein conjugates immobilized on surfaces are being developed for highly selective and predictable removal of circulating biomolecules from the blood based on unique molecular interactions. These engineered surfaces will provide versatile platforms which can be tuned to rapidly eliminate a variety of harmful targets from circulation, without affecting concentrations of non-targeted species.