Research Program 1: Cancer Therapy with siRNAs. Cancer arises from uncontrolled cell proliferation due to aberrant expression of certain proteins, resulting in loss of control over the cellular physiology. A permanent solution to cancer is to target those proteins with aberrant expression and silence (eradicate) them. The newly discovered silencer RNAs (siRNAs) can be designed to target any protein at will. Their delivery into the cells, however, is problematic. The highly charged siRNAs cannot cross cell membrane and it gets quickly degraded in the body. Our goal is to design 'nano'-engineered vesicles, based on architecturally-controlled polymers, to facilitate cellular uptake of siRNA (picture). We are developing amphiphilic polymers composed of cationic and lipophilic groups, since these features provide an optimal balance between packaging of siRNA into nano-vesicles and cellular penetration. Sub-projects in this area include materials chemistry to prepare the biomaterials, pharmaceutical studies to investigate siRNA delivery, and development of anti-cancer models for therapy.
Research Program 2: Gene Delivery for Bone Regeneration. Extensive efforts by academic and industrial groups are yielding new proteins to enable bone repair. To develop next-generation therapeutic agents for bone repair, we want to rely on the genes of these stimulatory factors for bone regeneration, rather than the proteins artificially produced outside the body. The critical challenge is to enable robust gene expression at the site of repair, so that locally produced proteins can stimulate bone healing. We are creating new biomaterials for this end, whose goal to package the genes into supramolecular assemblies and present the genes to cells in the body. Sub-projects in this theme include preparation of polymeric biomaterials, design of gene-expression vectors, and nanoparticle engineering for gene expression in animal models.
Keywords: Biomaterials, drug delivery, gene therapy, tissue engineering, anti-cancer drugs