STUDENT INNOVATION ACROSS THE PHARMA SCIENCES
At the 2012 American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) Annual Meeting in Chicago, graduate students across the
country were honored for their research and work in bio/pharmaceutical innovation. Symposium awards were given to graduate
students in the areas ranging from analysis and pharmaceutical quality to ocular drug delivery and disposition. Pharmaceutical Technology had the chance to talk with a few of the recipients about their work.
Biotechnology category winner David W. Woessner noted that his team's work at the University of Utah on "Synthetically Lethal
Combinations for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) Therapy-Disrupting Dimerization of Bcr-Abl and Secondary Leukemia Specific
Pathways" demonstrates the first development of a protein/peptide-based therapeutic for CML.
"While current therapies in the clinic (tyrsosine kinase inhibitors [TKIs]) act on the ABL portion of the protein, we are
demonstrating efficacy by targeting the BCR portion, necessary for oligomerization and activation of the tyrosine kinase.
Additionally, this work also exploits a combination therapy approach early in development," he said. Future research in this
area has already moved towards combination therapy approaches, explained Woessner. "There are now essentially five TKIs that
effectively treat CML. Combinations with other small molecules that target leukemic stem cells, but not normal/healthy hematopoietic
stem cells are highly valued. We will continue to see trials for drug combinations," he said.
Mamta Kapoor of the University of Connecticut also won in the biotechnology category. Her research, "Elucidation of Cellular
Uptake Mechanism of Novel Ternary Anionic-siRNA Lipoplexes," aimed to obtain an understanding on formulation-cell interaction
that may facilitate faster formulation optimization to achieve efficient delivery. "This research area is interesting because
it involves a mechanistic approach to comprehend the rate-limiting steps to proficient intracellular delivery of therapeutic
agents," Kapoor explained. The mechanistic studies "have helped in understanding the contribution of formulation components
in the uptake process and consequent bioactivity." Looking ahead, Kapoor's team intends to repeat the studies with other novel
Lakshmi Prasanna Kolluru, who won in the drug design and development interface category, focused on the "Design and Development
of Albumin-based Theragnostic Nanoparticles for Tumor Targeted Drug Delivery." Based at Mercer University, the PhD candidate
was inspired as a teenager by a cousin, a cancer patient suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy. "She was disturbed
psychologically when she had lost her hair due to side effects and this spurred the interest in me to focus on cancer research.
So, when my professor gave me the freedom to design a project, I opted to work on development of a delivery system that targets
anti cancer drugs to tumor and reduces the side-effects of chemotherapy," said Kolluru. Looking ahead, the grad student says
the university team is "planning to decorate this delivery system with dual-targeting probes to examine the efficacy of the
targeting ligands in vitro and in vivo for selective localization of the drug in the tumor region."
Jiban Jyoti Panda of the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in New Delhi and of the FM University
of Balasore, Odisha, India, won in the category of formulation design and development for the paper, "Self-Assembled Dipeptide
Nanotubes, Nanovesicles and Nanogels: Potential Vehicles for Targeted Tumor Drug Delivery." The research focused on testing
the potential of nanotechnology in cancer therapy. "Different types of polymeric, inorganic, and metallic nanoparticles have
been investigated for their potential for effective tumor delivery and therapy. However, there are many factors which prevent
the development of these nanoparticles for safe human use," Panda explained. "We tried to develop peptide-based nanoparticles,
which are expected to be highly biocompatible due to their peptidic origin. Moreover, because the greatest problem with peptide-based
drugs or systems is their low in vivo stability, we tried to develop nanoparticles from designed small peptides with the modified amino acid a, -dehydrophenylalanine
(?Phe), residue, which is unique and would provide the nanostructures with enhanced assembling behavior and resistance to
enzymatic degradation leading to better stability."