A $3M NSF grant to advance biomanufacturing could help establish an innovative method to deliver medicines to cells

A team of Vanderbilt engineers, biologists and education specialists have received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to advance large-scale biomanufacturing of cell-derived nanoparticles that can deliver precisely targeted drugs to the site of a disease.

“Biomanufacturing is a growing but critical field that is reshaping how we diagnose and treat some of the most devastating diseases known to humanity,” said Jamey Young, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and principal investigator on the four-year grant. “Vanderbilt is uniquely well-suited to help advance the future of biomanufacturing, given our deep expertise in molecular and nanoengineering, cellular biology and medicine, and education methodologies.”

L-R: Professors Ethan Lippmann, Alissa Weaver, M.D.; Jamey Young, and John Wilson.

The grant is part of the NSF’s Future Manufacturing program that is designed to support fundamental research, as well as education and workforce training, to spur novel manufacturing technologies and processes.

Co-principal investigators include Ethan Lippmann, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; Dr. Alissa Weaver, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Extracellular Vesicle Research; and John Wilson, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Much of the group’s work focuses on the development and large-scale production of extracellular vesicles (EVs), particles that are secreted by cells and capable of delivering highly precise therapeutic payloads—materials such as proteins, nucleic acids and metabolites—to cellular targets.