This award by the Biomaterials program in the Division of Materials Research to University of Akron is to design and study novel and integrated peptides to carry all of required drug delivery functions (efficient drug encapsulation, long blood circulation, and effective targeting) in one material for targeted delivery of small molecule drugs. The proposed work is aiming to address key challenges associated with current drug delivery systems in chemotherapy. The proposed integrated peptides will be designed to self-assemble into stable nano-sized liposome-like vesicles for targeted delivery of small molecule anticancer drugs. This project will investigate how the peptide sequence and environmental stimuli will affect the stability and drug release of peptide-based drug carriers. This study will provide a better understanding on the self-assembly properties and structure-function correlations of long peptides, which are essential for the rational design of more advanced peptide-based materials for drug delivery and tissue engineering. The proposed education and outreach activities will stimulate students' interest in biotechnology, and motivate them to face the challenges of interdisciplinary problems. As part of this project,the concepts and results developed from this research will be incorporated into an undergraduate and graduate elective 'Protein Engineering' course. Undergraduates with an emphasis on underrepresented minorities and women will be recruited and trained to conduct research in this project.
Due to the sustained prevalence of cancer, numerous drugs have been developed for cancer therapy, and chemotherapy is still prevalent in the treatment of cancers. The goal of this project is to improve the therapeutic outcome of chemotherapy by developing more advanced drug delivery platforms. If successful, these drug delivery platforms will have a great potential to be translated into clinical applications to benefit public health. The proposal also supports a comprehensive education and outreach plan that will cover from K-12 to graduate education. As part of this project, the researcher plans to introduce cutting edge and multidisciplinary bio-technologies to high school students and their teachers. One of the goals of this research team is to involve 100% of the undergraduate students in research. This approach will significantly enhance hands-on research experience for students from the lab components of 'Protein Engineering' course. The investigator plans to work with College of Engineering programs such as 'Increasing Diversity in Engineering Academics' and 'Women in Engineering' to recruit undergraduates to conduct research in this project. The proposed activities will help to cultivate a high-tech environment in northeast Ohio through science and engineering education.