What do you think holds the key to your success as a pharmaceutical scientist?
Success is made possible by people. I have been fortunate to have excellent mentors, students and collaborators.
What do you consider to be your key research accomplishments?
We have developed ways to enhance transdermal and transmucosal delivery of macromolecules. Our particular contribution has been on developing physical and chemical means to permeabilize skin and mucosal membranes. We have also developed strategies to prepare micro/nanoparticles of various shapes and used them to understand the role of geometry in particulate drug delivery. We have also made contributions to mathematical modeling of transport processes in the body including permeation across the skin, intracellular trafficking in cells, and permeabilization of cell membranes. These models have enhanced our understanding and enabled new applications in some cases.
What was the turning point in your career?
Joining Prof. Langer’s laboratory as a graduate student. That was my first exposure to research and it shaped my outlook on science and academic career.
Who are the individuals who most influenced your research career?
Many people have influenced aspects of my career but two in particular. My father who kindled my liking for engineering at an early age and Bob Langer who inspired me and introduced me to research.
Pharmaceutical scientists are faced with the dilemma of having to publish in biomedical or basic science journals. Does it mean cutting edge science will not likely be featured in the Pharmaceutical Research?
Not necessarily. Choice of journal depends on the targeted audience. I see the need to publish in a variety of journals including engineering, pharmaceutical, biomedical and multidisciplinary journals. Diversification of journals is essential to foster inter-disciplinary communication and collaborations.
Where is the field of Engineering Carriers of Novel Shapes for Drug and Nucleic Acid Delivery going? How do the articles in the theme section fill the gap?
The field is still in infancy but off to a great start. Researchers are just beginning to appreciate that shape can have a profound influence on the behavior of drug delivery carriers. The articles in this theme section clearly demonstrate this point. These articles will add to our understanding of how shape matters and will inspire future studies to advance our understanding.
What are the challenges for Engineering Carriers of Novel Shapes and how can be overcome?
There are several challenges. Perhaps the most significant challenge is in understanding the role of shape. Upon administration in the body, drug delivery carriers have to overcome several hurdles including uptake, clearance, degradation, non-targeted accumulation, and phagocytosis prior to delivering the therapeutic payload. The ability of carriers to overcome these hurdles is likely to depend on shape. Such dependencies must be understood. The role of shape is also likely to depend on other key parameters such as size and surface chemistry. Such interdependencies also pose a challenge in terms of developing an understanding. Another challenge is development of technologies to produce particles of various shapes using biocompatible materials. Great strides have already been made towards this goal.
What is the key to developing successful collaborative relationships?
Good interactions between people. A genuine desire to interact with the collaborators at multiple levels is essential for a successful collaboration.
What is your philosophy of educating graduate students?
Research is a means of turning graduate students into creative and independent scientists. My goal is to facilitate this transition and do whatever it takes to make it happen. My precise role varies depending on the student. In general, I always encourage them to think of the big picture and innovate.
What are the challenges facing the pharmaceutical sciences?
Drug delivery continues to be a challenge in the field. Many of these challenges have been identified and significant progress has been made in the last couple of decades to address them. New discoveries have been made to facilitate the delivery of proteins, peptides and nucleic acids. One challenge now is to convert these discoveries into successful clinical therapies that will help patients.
What is the place for collaboration with industry in academia?
Industrial collaborations play an important role in academia, especially in the field of drug delivery. Researchers are really motivated to see their discoveries and inventions reach patients and collaboration with industry is a natural step along the way.