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Drug Delivery & Nanomedicine

The faculty and students in Cornell Biomedical Engineering apply engineering principles to design systems that effectively control the spatial and temporal delivery of medicines, to investigate the effects of medicines on cells and tissues, and to evaluate their preclinical and clinical efficacy. Efforts include systems to target medicines at precise sites, (for example to treat cancers), devices to control the rate at which medicine is made available to the body (for example, injections that last one month or more) and constructs to facilitate specific interactions with systems of cells or to understand their function (for example, to deliver vaccines, to sequence the genome of single cells or to understand the impact of outside influences on cells).  The work integrates investigators working across length scales in all fields of engineering and also include investigators in chemistry, cell biology, genetics, immunology, veterinary medicine and human medicine.  Resources at Cornell that support these research programs include the Chemistry Nuclear Magnetic Resonance facility, the Cornell Center for Materials Science, the Cornell Nanofabrication facility the Cornell Center for Biotechnology and the Cornell Nanobiotechnology Center.  Most projects involve investigators at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine and the Weill Cornell College of Medicine.

Some specific faculty projects:
Prof. Iwijn De Vlaminck works at the interface of nanotechnology and biology to advance genomic sequencing and to understand gene expression patterns at single cell resolution. Single cell sequencing enables the study of genomic heterogeneity of cells in the context of full tissues and microbe populations in ways not possible with traditional bulk sequencing assays. For example, only a small fraction of the microbes that populate our planet can be propagated in laboratory culture; therefore, little is known about these microbes, other than that they exist. Using single-cell sequencing through the design of new nanofluidic devices, the genomes of these living systems can be investigated to better understand how they work.

Prof. Jan Lammerding’s lab is developing microfluidic devices to measure (sub-)cellular biomechanics to investigate how changes in cellular and nuclear stiffness can contribute to the pathology of muscular dystrophies, premature aging, and cancer. In addition, the lab is using microfluidics approaches to study the migration of cancer cells, taking advantage of the ability to fabricate precisely defined environments that mimic interstitial pores and spaces in physiological tissues.

Prof. William Olbricht’s research focuses on the application of fluid mechanics and mass transfer to investigate new ways of drug delivery through tissues, in particular the brain. One example is his work in convection-enhanced drug delivery, a technique that uses convective fluid flow to actively distribute drug deeper into brain tissue to treat disease. One advantage of convection-enhanced delivery is that it can bypass the blood brain barrier through the infusion of drug through a microfluidic catheter directly into the brain interstitium thereby establishing a penetration depth further than achieved by diffusion alone.

Prof. David Putnam’s lab focuses on the design of new materials and systems to target medicines to specific tissues and cell subpopulations. For example, the group engineers bacteria to spontaneously bud outer membrane vesicles that mimic infectious agents and elicit protective immunity to challenge. The group also has designed vaccine delivery vehicles that can protect against disease with a single dose, and in half the time of traditional vaccines. In addition, the Putnam groups designs drug delivery systems to deliver more complex therapeutics, like bacteriophage, to help modulate the gut microbiome and to treat infections from antibiotic-resistant strains.

One goal of Prof. Michael Shuler’s lab is to couple micro- and nanofabrication techniques with cell cultures to predict toxicology and efficacy of pharmaceuticals. These “body-on-a-chip” systems are microfluidic devices with interconnected cell-containing compartments to mimic pharmacokinetic response of humans to drugs or environmental chemicals. This system mimics both uptake of drugs through barrier tissues such as the gastrointestinal tract and the response of internal organs (eg. liver, heart, etc.)

One goal of Prof. Uli Wiesner’s lab is to develop fluorescent core-shell silica nanoparticles referred to as Cornell dots, or simply C dots, that help surgeons better visualize tumor tissue during surgery. Such intraoperative nanotechnological tools for better visualization of cancer tissue are highly desirable, much researched world wide, but have not been translated into the clinic before. In fact C dots are the first ever optical polymer-inorganic hybrid nanoparticles approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an investigational new drug (IND) for human clinical trials. Such clinical trials are currently ongoing with cancer patients in collaboration with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Furthermore, since August 2015 efforts are supported by a National Cancer Institute (NCI) funded Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE) that is co-lead by Cornell and MSKCC.

Research Area Faculty

  Name Department Contact
caa238.jpg Alabi, Christopher A.
Assistant Professor and Nancy and Peter Meinig Family Investigator in the Life Sciences
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 356 Olin Hall
607 255-7889
cab10_eng.jpg Batt, Carl
Food Science
ilb8.jpg Brito, Ilana Lauren
Assistant Professor, Mong Family Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow in Biomedical Engineering
Biomedical Engineering 289 Kimball Hall
607 254-2938
cc62_eng.jpg Chu, C. C.
Rebecca Q. Morgan '60 Professor
Fiber Science & Apparel Design 231 Human Ecology Building
607 255-1938
sd386.jpg Daniel, Susan
Associate Professor
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 256 Olin Hall
607 255-4675
id93.jpg De Vlaminck, Iwijn
Robert N. Noyce Assistant Professor in Life Science and Technology
Biomedical Engineering 301 Weill Hall
md255.jpg DeLisa, Matthew P.
William L. Lewis Professor of Engineering
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 254 Olin Hall
607 254-8560
cf99.jpg Fischbach-Teschl, Claudia
Associate Professor
Biomedical Engineering 157 Weill Hall
607 255-4547
bk88.jpg Kirby, Brian J.
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 377 Kimball Hall
jl2792.jpg Lammerding, Jan
Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
Biomedical Engineering 235 Weill Hall
607 255-1700
jtl10_eng.jpg Lis, John
Molecular Biology and Genetics
dl79_eng.jpg Luo, Dan
Biological and Environmental Engineering
frm2.jpg Maxfield, Frederick
Professor, Chair
Biochemistry, Weill Cornell
wlo1.jpg Olbricht, William L.
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 378 Olin Hall
607 255-4362
mls50.jpg Shuler, Michael Louis
Samuel B. Eckert Professor of Engineering
Biomedical Engineering 350 Duffield Hall (secondarily 381 Kimball)
607 255-7577
as2833.jpg Singh, Ankur
Assistant Professor
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 389 Kimball Hall
607 255-2194
ads10.jpg Stroock, Abraham Duncan
William C. Hooey Director and Gordon L. Dibble ’50 Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 124 Olin Hall
607 255-4276
ajt32_eng.jpg Travis, Alexander
Associate Professor
Baker Institute for Animal Health
yw839.jpg Wang, Yadong
McAdam Family Foundation Professor of Heart Assist Technology
Biomedical Engineering 277 Kimball Hall
ubw1.jpg Wiesner, Ulrich B.
Spencer T. Olin Professor of Engineering
Materials Science and Engineering Room 330 Bard Hall
607 255-3487