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Biomaterials for sustained release of cancer immunotherapy

Primary Investigators:
Todd Giorgio, PhD
Richard Mu, PhD (Tennessee State University)
Anil Shanker, PhD (Meharry Medical College) 

Brief Description of Project:
The overarching objective of this project is to develop biomaterials capable of sustained release of protein-based cancer immunotherapies.  Co-axial electrospray will be used to form microparticles with a protein core and a poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) shell.  We aim to prepare materials that release their protein cargo over the period of 2-3 weeks.  The application for these materials is ovarian cancer treatment with immunotherapies that can be administered as a single intraperitoneal injection.

Desired Qualifications:
Highly motivated students interested in research that involves aspects of nanoscale biomaterial design/ fabrication/ characterization, including sustained drug release.  A background in chemistry and or biomaterials would be valuable.  Previous knowledge/experience with particle characterization methods is also desired, but not required.
 
Nature of Supervision:
The undergraduate researcher will have the opportunity to meet at least once per week with the PI to discuss progress and next steps.  Full participation in weekly research group meetings is expected.  Hands-on lab training and support will be provided by a collaborating professor (Dr. Richard Mu, Tennessee State University) with expertise in particle fabrication by electrospray.  Other methods will be carried out in ESB under the supervision of senior predoctoral candidates with appropriate experience.  The overall design will be informed by Dr. Anil Shanker (Meharry Medical College); his laboratory will (eventually) test these materials in mouse models of ovarian cancer.
 
A Brief Research Plan (period is for 10 weeks):
Phase 1 involves the fundamental laboratory and practical skills associated with the preparation of core/shell microparticles by electrospray.  These activities include particle characterization by dynamic light scatter, microscopy and protein release kinetics.  Phase 2 is focused on optimization of the particle design and fabrication conditions based on target design characteristics and sustained release performance.  This part will ‘look like’ a screening approach in which we will iterate parameters such as solvent composition, potential difference and emitter-to-collector distance to produce particles with the desired properties.  Phase 3 involves decoration of the particles with bioadhesive structures using chemistry approaches.  Bioadhesion will be tested on cultured mammalian cells.
 
Number of Open Slots: 1
 
Contact Information:
Name: Todd Giorgio
Department: Biomedical Engineering
Email: todd.d.giorgio@vanderbilt.edu