Navigation Links
Sullivan wins NSF Career Award for research on therapeutic drug carriers

Millicent Sullivan was a born engineer. As a youngster, she had a fascination with shapes and loved building things with Tinker Toys.

Today, Sullivan, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Delaware and Merck Faculty Fellow, is applying her knowledge and talents to an area critical to human health--she's building new materials for delivering healing drugs and gene therapies to diseased and damaged cells in the human body.

Sullivan is UD's latest recipient of the National Science Foundation's prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Award. The highly competitive award is bestowed on those scientists and engineers deemed most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

The five-year, $489,798 grant will support Sullivan's research to determine how cells interact with potential drug carriers and how the resulting structural changes of the carrier affect its ability to efficiently deliver its payload.

"It's an honor. I was thrilled to hear the news," Sullivan said. "The National Science Foundation has always been a respected funding organization. Colleagues in my field do the reviews for the proposals, so that is very gratifying."

"The College of Engineering has some of the best young engineering faculty in the country, and Prof. Sullivan is a perfect example," Michael Chajes, dean of engineering, said. "Her work in the area of new materials for delivering drugs and gene therapies to human cells is groundbreaking research. This award will enable her to take important steps towards moving the research closer to implementation. I look forward to watching Millie's career continue to blossom," Chajes noted.

Sullivan wants to harness the cell's biological environment to "productively evolve" new drug or gene packaging materials as they make the rough-and-tumble journey from a blood vessel, through the connective tissue, through the cell membrane, and finally into the nucleus or other organelle within a target cell where the package will open up to deliver its contents.

"It's a challenge to achieve because in protecting the DNA or drug, you generally make it less accessible to its target," Sullivan said. "We need to design packaging materials that protect their cargo, but that also promote the release and functionality of the payload once it reaches its target site," she noted. "What elements within the cell would allow this unpackaging? That is what we want to find out."

Currently, Sullivan is working to design synthetic DNA delivery materials that mimic elements of the architecture and function of histones in chromosomal DNA packaging. Histones are positively charged protein complexes that function as "spools" around which chromosomal DNA is wrapped. They display a series of peptide "tails" with specific sequences that act like switches, and can activate or suppress the transcription process by which DNA is unraveled and read.

Sullivan is creating gold nanoparticles functionalized with histone tail sequences strongly associated with transcriptional activity. When used for packaging therapeutic DNA, these materials will protect and direct their payloads during extra- and intracellular transport. Once they are exposed to the specific chemical cues within the cell's nucleus, the materials are pre-programmed to "trigger," resulting in the partial release and activation of the cargo DNA.

Confocal fluorescence microscopy and cryo-transmission electron microscopy will be used to investigate what happens to the materials once they are introduced to cells, and to determine if they do, indeed, "loosen up" and affect DNA transcription, Sullivan said.

The educational component to the research project is designed to expose students to engineering before they reach college.

As part of the UD College of Engineering's Research Experiences for Teachers program, Sullivan is ready to pilot teacher internships aimed at developing course modules in bioengineering for the high-school curriculum.

Two high-school teachers--including one science teacher and one math teacher--and an in-service teacher in mathematics education will spend six weeks doing research in Sullivan's lab this summer. Their work will include both an experimental component and a modeling component to give each teacher a lead role in his or her area of expertise.

Additionally, teaching assistantships will be offered to high-school students who will work alongside the teachers in the lab and do the full experiments. The students will be co-mentored by UD undergraduate and graduate students.

"Bioengineering and biomaterials research have the potential to lead to dramatic improvements in human health," Sullivan said. "I'm excited about doing the science, and about bringing engineering into the high school classroom."

Sullivan received her bachelor's degree from Princeton University and her doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University, both in chemical engineering. She conducted postdoctoral research in tissue engineering and matrix biology in the Hope Heart Program at the Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle.


Contact: Tracey Bryant
University of Delaware

Related medicine news :

1. Former HHS Secretary Dr. Louis Sullivan, Lt. Gov. Cagle Address Need to Improve Quality of Patient Care
2. Dr. Louis Sullivans Symphony of Health Care Delivery Stresses Importance of Communication, Quality Research in Health Care
3. Masimo Corporation Receives a Frost & Sullivan 2007 Industry Best Practices Award for Pulse Oximetry Leadership
4. Panomics Inc.: Recipient of the Frost & Sullivan 2007 United States Drug Discovery Technologies Entrepreneurial Company of the Year Award
5. Novadaqs SPY Imaging System named Product of the Year by Frost and Sullivan
6. Gary Tschautscher of Nonin Medical, Inc. Receives CEO of 2007 for North American Patient Monitoring From Frost & Sullivan
7. MedApps Receives Prestigious Frost & Sullivan Award
8. Accurays CyberKnife System Receives 2008 North American Medical Devices Product of the Year Award From Frost & Sullivan
9. Draeger Receives Frost & Sullivan Consumer Award for Respiratory Protection
10. HRET Awards Four Health Career Scholarships
11. Optometry Career Conferences Set for Five N.C. Campuses in October
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Sullivan wins NSF Career Award for research on therapeutic drug carriers
(Date:11/29/2015)... ... November 29, 2015 , ... Effective immediately, every single IguanaMed scrub style ... Black Friday Target is offering a “Buy One Scrub Set, Get the 2nd Scrub ... to purchase IguanaMed at a discounted price. , IguanaMed’s mission is to ...
(Date:11/28/2015)... ... ... Safe storage for contraceptive devices may not always be easy to find. ... the other from Bradley Beach, New Jersey, there is an easy solution to the ... replace NuvaRings more often than necessary. As such, it affords peace of mind and ...
(Date:11/28/2015)... CA (PRWEB) , ... November 28, 2015 , ... Pixel ... fully customizable media panels to choose from, the possibilities are endless. Users have full ... more. With the ProPanel: Pulse masking effects, users are sure to get heads to ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... , ... November 27, 2015 , ... According to an ... by the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia suggested that laws ... head injuries. The article explains that part of the reason for the controversial conclusion ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ... ... A team of Swiss doctors has released a report on mesothelioma relapse ... the findings on the website. Click here to read the details now. ... who were treated with chemotherapy followed by EPP surgery. Among the 106 patients who ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/29/2015)... , Nov. 29, 2015  At this year,s ... to experience the most complete mobile C-arm portfolio with ... is Ziehm Vision RFD 3D, the world,s only 3D ... edge length per scan volume. In addition, Ziehm Imaging ... motorized mobile C-arm in four axes which is ideally ...
(Date:11/29/2015)... CORALVILLE, Iowa , Nov. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... in ultrasound guidance technology at the Radiological Society ... conference in Chicago November ... guidance system is designed to offer customers unrivaled ... outcomes. --> ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... 2015 Une nouvelle approche ... Bremachlorin contre le cancer avancé.    ... l,immunothérapie au traitement photodynamique au Bremachlorin contre le ... Une nouvelle approche consistant à combiner l,immunothérapie au ...    Clinical Cancer Research . ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: