Drug Delivery and 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. 

Faculty research interests 

Prof. Ilana Brito sees the microbiome as a novel entry point to affecting human health. Her lab is developing a suite of approaches to modify microbiome function and to mine the commensal genomes for bioactive molecules to improve health conditions, including chronic inflammation, metabolic disorders, and cardiovascular disease. They are also investigating how to use microvesicles, nanoparticles and engineered probiotics to introduce novel compounds into the microbiome, and how to alter microbiome function using genetic engineering approaches. 

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 group 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.

Prof Ankur Singh’s research in drug delivery focus on developing nanoengineered technologies to modulate immune cells. His lab has engineered nanogels and hydrogels for controlled delivery of therapeutics to program immune cells against infection, inflammation, and cancer.

Prof. Yadong Wang’s lab focuses on controlled release of protein drugs, particularly growth factors and cytokines. The biggest challenge for these molecules as drugs is their short half-lives. Our goal is to design vehicles that not only extend the half-life, but also enable local release. The current lead vehicle in our toolbox is a coacervate that self-assembles with the protein drugs using the same mechanism nature uses to anchor proteins to the extracellular matrix. Our goal is to treat diseases in the cardiovascular, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems.

Research Area Faculty

The faculty researchers in this area exemplify the collaborative nature of the work done at Cornell Engineering.

Ankur Singh

Ankur Singh

Associate Professor (Moving summer 2020)
Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Associate Professor (Moving summer 2020)
Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering

Graduate field faculty

Christopher Alabi, caa238@cornell.edu
Carl Batt, cab10@cornell.edu
C.C. Chu, cc62@cornell.edu
Susan Daniel, sd386@cornell.edu
Matthew DeLisa, md255@cornell.edu
Brian Kirby, bk88@cornell.edu
John Lis, jtl10@cornell.edu
Dan Luo, dl79@cornell.edu
Fredrick Maxfield, frmaxfie@med.cornell.edu
Abraham Stroock, ads10@cornell.edu
Alexander Travis, ajt32@cornell.edu
Uli Wiesner, ubw1@cornell.edu

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