To introduce the Southwest Virginia medical, materials, and business communities to the potential and current practice of materials medicine, the Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech are sponsoring a program on "Enabling Nanomaterials for Advanced Drug Delivery," featuring university researchers and distinguished plenary lecturers from the California Institute of Technology and the University of Nebraska Medical Center on Friday, Nov. 21, at the Skelton Alumni Center at the Inn at Virginia Tech.

The development of systems to deliver medicines to targeted sites within the body, such as within cells, is one of the fastest growing areas of medicine. Virginia Tech's polymer science group is combining the expertise of researchers from chemistry, wood science, biomedical science, engineering, and other fields to develop synthetic biomaterials that will precisely interact with membranes and complex with DNA.

"The research has the potential to make a large impact on human health," states Theresa Reineke, associate professor of chemistry in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, who has moved her research group to Virginia Tech from the University of Cincinnati. "Understanding how synthetic biomaterials interact with and affect living systems is one of the most fundamental and important problems in biomedical research," she said.

"The development of new materials for the delivery of therapeutics is also a fertile area for small start up companies and giant pharmaceutical companies alike," said Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute director Richard Turner.

Virginia Tech's focus is being enhanced by two new hires. In addition to Reineke, who is doing research on the use of polymers for gene delivery, Kevin Edgar, former technical director of the (cellulose-chemistry based) drug delivery group at Eastman Chemical Company, has joined the university’s College of Natural Resources as a professor in the Department of Wood Science and Forest Products.

Both will talk about their research at the mini-symposium, following introductory remarks by Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science Director Roop Mahajan at 8:30 a.m. and comments on materials medicine by Turner at 8:40 a.m.

There will also be two plenary lecturers.

Mark E. Davis, the Warren and Katharine Schlinger Professor of Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology and a member of the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Experimental Therapeutics Program, will speak at 10 a.m. on the topic of "Nano particle Cancer Therapeutics: From Concept to Clinic."

A member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, his research involves polymers for the delivery of macromolecular therapeutics such as nucleic acids. He is the founder of Insert Therapeutics Inc., a company focused on the use of cyclodextrin-containing polymers for drug delivery applications, and Calando Pharmaceuticals Inc., which creates RNAi therapeutics. He was also Reineke's mentor. After completing her Ph.D. in 2000, Reineke was awarded a National Institutes of Health Fellowship to study the synthesis and biological characterization of carbohydrate-containing polymers for gene therapy in the Davis laboratory.

Alexander V. Kabanov, the Parke-Davis Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and director of the Center for Drug Delivery and Nanomedicine in the College of Pharmacy, will speak at 1 p.m. His current research includes the use of polymers for gene therapy, evaluation of block copolymer-based therapeutics to overcome drug resistance in treating cancer, as well as improving drug delivery to the brain by inhibiting drug efflux systems. Kabanov collaborates with Virginia Tech Chemistry Professor Judy Riffle, who is doing research on preparing novel nanoparticles, including magnetic nanoparticles, for drug delivery and advanced medical diagnostics. The title of Kabanov’s lecture will be “Polymer Micelles for Drug Delivery — from Bench to Bedside.”

At 2 p.m., Riffle and colleagues from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine led by Professor Nathan Sriranganathan will discuss their Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science-funded interdisciplinary research on "Tailoring Core-Shell Nanoplexes to Deliver Antibiotics to Intracellular Pathogens."

The final talk, at 2:30 p.m., "Gelatin drug delivery systems for improved bone healing," will be by Abby Morgan, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science and engineering at Virginia Tech. The program concludes at 3 p.m.

"Novel functional polymers can be the keys for important medical advances in tissue engineering and biomedical devices, as well as pharmaceutical delivery. Virginia Tech research complements and reinforces the new focus on nanomedicine and is marrying the university's polymer expertise with the emerging medical sciences at Virginia Tech," Turner said.

Attendance is open to students, faculty members, and interested industrial researchers. To learn more about the symposium call (540) 231-4552 or visit the Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute online.

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