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Hoon Sunwoo, MSc, PhD

Associate Professor

Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

About Me

Dr. Hoon Sunwoo joined the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical, the University of Alberta as Associated Professor in 2013. Dr. Sunwoo is a nationally and internationally recognized scholar, researcher, and collaborator. His expertise runs deep in several areas: pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and immunology. His research focuses on new frontiers in the development of therapeutic antibodies, vaccine delivery vehicles, point-of-care diagnostics, and in developing nutraceutical/pharmaceutical formulations for human health. Dr. Sunwoo is recognized for his practical, real-world perspective. He focuses on translational research that applies discoveries generated in the laboratory to studies in humans (bench to bedside). Nonetheless, he helps the adoption of best practices into community settings (bedside to practice). His work has embodied active collaboration with leading companies in a variety of industries. In 2014, Dr. Sunwoo received “The Innovation Makes Sense Recognition, TEC Edmonton” in recognition of his efforts and contributions to foster university-industry collaboration. He also received research grants from NSERC Collaborative Research Development (2016–2019), Alberta Advanced Education (2015–2018), Canadian Food Innovators and Agricultural Adaptation Council (2014–2018), MITACS Inc. (2015–2017), Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd (2011–2014) in support for his research activities.


At present, my research is focused on development and application of therapeutic / diagnostic antibody and nutraceutical / pharmaceutical compounds. They include:

Oral Passive Immunotherapy for Autoimmune Celiac Disease (gluten intolerants): This project aims to use oral passive antibody therapy to ameliorate recurring symptoms in gluten intolerant individuals. We have applied our innovative biotechnology platform of antibody farming to produce large quantities of immunoglobulin Y (IgY) antibodies to the immunogenic gluten antigens, using chicken eggs as antibody factories. These antibodies are effective for gastrointestinal drug delivery and efficiently neutralize immunogenic gluten. A human clinical trial (Phase I) was successfully conducted in the summer of 2014. We continue to demonstrate the evidence of efficacy in the following years. 

Therapeutic Antibody Development for Domestic Livestock: This project aims to develop an innovative veterinary biologic to prevent osteoporosis in laying hens, using the biotechnology platform of antibody farming. Injectable IgY antibodies against recombinant Receptor Activator of Nuclear Factor κ B ligand (RANKL) produced by baculovirus expression system that increases the loss of bone mass, are proposed to reduce breakdown of bone without compromising egg production. This project is motivated by the need to promote animal welfare and possibly improve egg production. 

The point of Care Diagnostics: The projects are motivated by the need for rapid, sensitive and inexpensive immunoswab / Immunostrip / Labo-on-chip / ELISA point of care detection systems. The pathogens include SARS, Dengue, and Ebola in humans. We have assessed in great detail the merits and demerits of each procedure highlighting the detection limits, and the associated cost of analysis, which is crucial in endemic regions wherein exists severe resource constraints. We aim to increase efficiency by lowering costs and reducing screening time compared to the comprehensive diagnostics which help address delays in assessment and result in improved care during an outbreak. 

Nutraceutical / Pharmaceutical Compounds: This relatively new direction for my research capitalizes on a recently developed technology that combines high pressure with enzymatic hydrolysis (HHP-EH) of biological matter. My goal is to apply this technology to low-value and waste Canadian agricultural products, extracting smaller bioactive compounds (anti-inflammation, anti-microbial and anti-cancer properties) to be developed as nutraceuticals or pharmaceuticals for human health applications. Breaking down difficult-to-digest material such as elk velvet antler or Canadian fresh ginseng root, and extracting components with known biological activity such as ginsenosides, gives the opportunity to formulate these components into clean, carefully characterized nutraceuticals or pharmaceuticals. 


I teach the nutrition course to the pharmacy practice students relating to the pharmacist's role in providing patient care for conditions relating to nutrition. I also teach other courses on current and advanced biotech drugs technology and immunoassays for the development of point-of-care detection systems.