Our current research interests include:
Theme 1: Nano-Bio Interfaces
A thorough understanding of how nanoparticles interact with tissues and cells in vivo is essential to accelerate the clinical translation process. Various tools will be applied to reveal the mechanisms of nanoparticle transport in vivo, allowing for the development of new strategies for nanomaterial design. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will also be applied to optimize nanotechnology-based drug delivery, “closing the loop” of nanoparticle synthesis, characterization, refinement and testing or predicting activity in vitro and in vivo.
Theme 2: Nanodiagnostics
The incorporation of nanobiotechnology with molecular diagnostics (genomic/proteomic/cellomic nanosensors) can be deployed to improve the sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of in vitro diagnostics. Prof. Chen and his colleagues will develop various nanosensor platforms (e.g. magnetic, electrical and optical) to discover and translate novel circulating biomarkers for different clinical applications (e.g., metabolic diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, cancers, and infectious diseases).
Theme 3: Nanoimaging
Molecular imaging enables us to non-invasively visualize cellular functions and biological processes in living subjects, allowing accurate diagnosis of diseases at early stages. The novel properties of nanoparticles enable molecular imaging to have high resolution and sensitivity. Compared with small molecule-based contrast agents, nanoparticles exhibit excellent biodistribution, long circulation time and other various functions. Furthermore, multifunctional nanomaterials can serve as multimodal imaging agents or theranostic agents. Nevertheless, clinical translation of nanomaterials has been much slower than that of small molecule-based materials. Many critical challenges, including toxicity, biocompatibility, targeting efficacy and long-term stability of nanoparticles, will be addressed in this theme to promote their clinical translation.
Theme 4: Nanotherapeutics
Nanoparticles is the logical and encouraging tool for delivery of medicine in controlled and targeted manner. Nanotherapeutics are expected to provide targeted drug delivery, improve drug solubility, extend drug half-life, improve a drug’s therapeutic index, and reduce a drug’s immunogenicity, which has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of many diseases. In this theme, Prof. Chen will develop various nanocarriers (e.g. liposome, nanocrystal, virosome, polymer therapeutic, nanoemulsion, and inorganic nanoparticle) for different types of drugs, such as proteins/peptides, chemotherapeutics, RNA therapeutics (e.g. siRNA, mRNA).
Theme 5: Nanoimmunomodulation
Immunomodulation, that is tuning how the immune system responds to exogenous and endogenous danger stimuli, represents a bubbling field of research in nanomedicine. The complexity under which the immune system operates, however, is staggering. An intricate network of cell types and subtypes direct the concerted actions of the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system. They coordinate, through different signaling molecules, the response against danger signals, and curb, in healthy conditions, the
abnormal reaction against self-antigens that arise in autoimmune diseases. The possibilities for nano-enabled immunomodulation are therefore multiple, and so are the challenges. Prof. Chen aims to: 1) apply various nanotechnologies for effective targeting of dendritic cells (DCs) to induce immune tolerance; 2) design nanomedicines to overcome various issues of adoptive T-cell therapy (ACT); 3) develop nanovaccines against cancer and infectious diseases.
Theme 6: Translational nanomedicine
In this theme, Prof. Chen and his colleagues will tackle key issues related to the clinical development of nanomedicine, including biological challenges, large-scale manufacturing, biocompatibility and safety, government regulations, and overall cost-effectiveness of nanomedicine. It is the ultimate goal of this Center for Nanomedicine to build up the expertise and capability in characterizing various newly developed nanoplatforms, conducting preclinical studies on the nanoformulas for submission to regulatory agencies, scaling up laboratory preparation of nanomaterials according to regulatory and industry standards for early clinical trials, and designing and conducting clinical trials of the de novo nanoplatforms.