Bacteria-Inspired Drug Delivery for the Lungs
Lung infections are one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Treating lung infections can be difficult because the body’s natural defenses can remove drugs from the body before they can have their intended effect. Bacteria and viruses have evolved to overcome the human immune system by limiting interactions with protein-rich fluids, like mucus, and hijacking cell systems. Our research focuses on designing bacteria-mimicking polymers — chemical compounds of molecules bonded together in long, repeating chains — that can avoid the body’s defenses and deliver drugs to infected areas. We will explore and quantify the interactions between the polymers and bodily fluids such as mucus and lung fluid. We will also investigate the interactions between the polymers and lung cells to determine what cellular machinery the polymers are using and how it might be harmful. Additionally, we will probe the interactions between the polymers and cellular systems using computer simulations to continually alter and improve our polymer designs. Using biology as the inspiration for my project will speed up development time, and the results will help improve the delivery of drugs to the lungs.
It is humbling and an honor to be a recipient of this fellowship and be able to interact and learn from this network of researchers. The connections I will make and experiences I will have through the PhRMA Foundation will be invaluable to me as I progress in my career.