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NMIN Postdoctoral Fellowship Awardees

2021 Awardees

Dr. Miffy Hok Yan Cheng has been awarded the 2021 NMIN Postdoctoral Fellowship Award in Gene Therapy for two complementary projects: Synthesis and screening of a new generation of ionizable lipids for LNP formulation, which she will pursue under the supervision of Dr. Pieter Cullis at the University of British Columbia; and Facile one-pot synthesis to radiolabel and formulate lipid nanoparticles using a microfluidic platform, which she will pursue independently.

“My research program aims to apply the principles of rational design to develop new generations of ionizable and functionalized lipids that more effectively deliver siRNA for cancer therapy,” says Dr. Cheng.

“I envision that combining traditional molecular synthetic chemistry methods with emerging nanoscale approaches will yield the next generation of lipids and LNPs with enhanced endosomal escape abilities and transfection efficacies.”

Dr. Yih Yang (Ian) Chen has been awarded the inaugural NMIN Postdoctoral Fellowship Award in Diagnostics for his project: An At-home, Self-Administered, Nucleic Acid Diagnostic Device for SARS-COV-2, which he will pursue under the supervision of Dr. Warren Chan at the University of Toronto.

“The successful completion of this project,” says Dr. Chen, “will yield an at-home nucleic acid test for SARS-COV-2 usable by people without specific training or expensive lab equipment, that will let individuals know that they are infected before they show symptoms. By promoting widespread testing, we hope to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

2020 Awardees

The NanoMedicines Innovation Network (NMIN) is pleased to announce the recipients of its inaugural NMIN Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards.

Dr. Noorjahan Aibani has been awarded the NMIN Postdoctoral Fellowship Award in Targeted Drug Delivery for her project Lipidic nanoparticle formulation of a triple adjuvant for intranasal vaccines for pertussis, which she will pursue under the supervision of Dr. Ellen Wasan at the University of Saskatchewan.

Dr. Jayesh Kulkarni has been awarded the NMIN Postdoctoral Fellowship Award in Gene Therapy for his project Design of lipid nanoparticles for gene therapy, which he will undertake at the University of British Columbia under the supervision of Drs Christian Kastrup and Pieter Cullis.

NMIN congratulates its inaugural Postdoctoral Fellows.

NMIN Undergraduate Studentship Awardees

2022 Awardees

Kodee Bao

University of British Columbia

Supervisor: Dr. Larry D. Lynd

Project Summary: To support decision-making by NMIN-affiliated teams considering embarking on the development of in-vivo CAR-T therapies, this project will survey and describe the technological and commercial landscape of this emerging therapeutic modality, with the goal of facilitating early health technology assessments (eHTA) of proposed applications of new targeted LNP systems.

Career Aspirations: My post-secondary education and research experience have compelled me to seek opportunities relating to nanotechnology, ultimately with the goal of pursuing an MD/PhD.

Kevin Fox

University of British Columbia

Supervisor: Dr. Pieter Cullis

Project Summary: To investigate the relationship between lipid nanoparticle (LNP) morphology and biomolecular corona composition. Further understanding of this relationship would allow for rational design to overcome the current challenges faced by LNPs in vivo, such as selective organ targeting, immune system clearance and dosing requirements.

Career Aspirations: I aspire to a career in the LNP and genetic medicine field. A personal interest to research LNP-protein dynamics is based upon the potential of the genetic therapies they encapsulate to improve patient outcomes.

Danny Liu

University of British Columbia

Supervisor: Dr. Sarah Hedtrich

Project Summary: This research project will investigate the use of lipid nanoparticles (LNP) to deliver CRISPR-Cas9 components to primary human skin cells, toward treating genetic skin disorders such as autosomal recessive congenital ichthyosis.

Career Aspirations: I plan on pursuing a graduate education in life science and nanomedicine research.

Adrienne Nagy

University of Saskatchewan

Supervisor: Dr. Ellen Wasan

Project Summary: This project aims to describe the in vitro and in vivo drug release profile of nanoparticle formulations of mycophenolate mofetil (MMF; an anti-rejection drug for organ transplant patients), to identify formulation candidates for efficacy testing.

Career Aspirations: I am interested in a career in pharmaceutical research and intend to continue my education into graduate studies after completing my PharmD.

Faith Liu

University of British Columbia

Supervisor: Dr. Sabrina Leslie

Project Summary: This project will study changes in the biophysical properties of mRNA-delivery lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) as a function of buffer pH and ionic strength, toward better understanding the mechanisms of action of these important classes of LNP-RNA therapeutics and vaccines.

Career Aspirations: My career goal is to work in biological and medical science, toward helping society through new research and discoveries.

Parneet Sekhon

University of British Columbia

Supervisor: Dr. Ken Harder

Project Summary: This project aims to explore the chemistry of LNP-mediated co-delivery of Cas9 mRNA and single-guide RNA with the goal of understanding and improving particle properties, mRNA delivery, protein expression, nuclear localization, and genome editing efficiency.

Career Aspirations: I plan to pursue a career in biomedical research, either working at a biotechnology company, or in academic research.

Tyler Thomson

University of British Columbia

Supervisor: Dr. Colin Ross

Project Summary: This project will use the Colin Ross Lab’s mouse model to screen a variety of LNP formulations for the delivery of RNA encoding a CRISPR/Cas9 base editor. This work will be complemented by in vitro optimization experiments with novel gene editing tools using the Lab’s reporter cell lines, with the aim of identifying parameters for improved editing efficiency.

Career Aspirations: I  plan to continue to graduate studies in the future, with the goal of obtaining a PhD and establishing a career
focused on gene therapy and nanomedicine research.

Amanda Yao

University of British Columbia

Supervisor: Dr. Sabrina Leslie

Project Summary: This project will advance a fluorophore-quencher probe to use as a diagnostic tool to quantitate specific, single-stranded DNA of interest with single-molecule sensitivity.

Career Aspirations: I hope to continue my studies in PharmD and pursue a career in pharmaceutical sciences, working on drug development with a focus on researching new drug delivery techniques.

2021 Awardees

Wanda Janaeska

University of Toronto

Supervisor: Dr. Warren Chan

Project Summary: Nanoparticles can deliver imaging and therapeutic agents to diseased cells. Cells can take up nanoparticles using endocytic vesicles; however, it is currently unclear what endocytosis pathways are used more abundantly by a given nanoparticle type. My research project aims to develop an analysis pipeline to identify nanoparticle localization in cells. This project will teach us how nanoparticles are internalized by cells.

Career Aspirations: As a future bioengineer, I want to develop new drugs. I am excited about designing therapeutics that will more effectively tackle our biggest medical mysteries, such as cancer. Beyond undergraduate, I wish to work at the intersection of nanotechnology and cancer immunotherapy. I aspire to become a principal investigator of my own research lab.

Rebecca Johnson

University of British Columbia

Supervisor: Dr. Sabrina Leslie

Project Summary: I will be working in Sabrina Leslie’s group to develop a molecular beacon to identify single-stranded regions in plasmid DNA. This beacon will improve single-molecule CLiC microscopy by reducing background fluorescence allowing higher concentrations of probe molecules to be used. With the improved kinetics and sensitivity, we hope to apply this tool to detect rare single-stranded nucleic acids of interest.

Career Aspirations: My undergraduate studies and work have made me very interested in biotechnology, especially the development of therapeutics. Following my degree, I hope to pursue grad studies and work in research and synthesis of small molecule drugs or biologics.

Cecilia Lee

University of British Columbia

Supervisor: Dr. Kenneth Harder

Project Summary: The Lyn tyrosine kinase is involved in a wide range of signalling pathways, including those regulating the development of patrolling monocytes (pMos), a population of terminally differentiated white blood cells that scavenge vasculature and pick up debris. pMos have been implicated in attenuating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis and cancer. Our group is working on a knock down of Lyn in vitro using LNP-delivered siRNA, to lay the groundwork for future investigations in vivo.

Career Aspirations: I hope to pursue graduate studies in biomedical sciences. I am incredibly excited to work with LNPs, an exciting new frontier for targeted drug therapies, and am grateful to NMIN for the opportunity to undertake this project.

Tiffany Pong

University of Toronto

Supervisor: Dr. Gilbert Walker

Project Summary: The project I am part of aims to identify new formulations of calreticulin (CRT) enhancing drugs for treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML). For the in vitro testing portion of the project in which I will take part, different drug combinations are delivered with LNPs to AML cells co-cultured with macrophages. The levels of CRT expression on AML cells following various drug treatments are then measured; formulations with the highest responses will be further tested.

Career Aspirations: I am currently thinking that I want to become a teacher. I enjoy science, and I also understand how science is behind every part of our daily life. As such, I wish to help children and teenagers develop their interest in science and build a solid scientific foundation.

Kurbaan Shergill

University of British Columbia

Supervisor: Dr. Colin Ross

Project Summary: Genome editing is a relatively new technology, currently limited in its safety and efficacy. I will work closely with Dr. Colin Ross and his research team in performing optimization experiments using in vitro reporter cell models to improve gene editing efficiency. The goal of our research is to optimize the use of novel CRISPR/Cas9 gene editors.

Career Aspirations: I am entering my third year in a BSc in Integrated Sciences at UBC. I am studying genetics and neurobiology. I hope to pursue a career in healthcare and medicine.

Mia Zakaria

University of Toronto

Supervisor: Dr. Gilbert Walker

Project Summary: I will work in the Walker Lab to help develop innovative nanomedicines to improve the prognosis of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) patients by testing the concept of a device to assess AML cells, deploying in vitro tests to identify drug combinations that can enhance AML treatment, and characterizing drugs that will improve immune responses to cancer cells.

Career Aspirations: I hope to enter the cosmetics industry and blend my passions for chemistry and business to formulate natural skincare products that target market needs. I am ultimately interested in developing topical therapeutic applications using nanomaterials (e.g. liposomes) that guarantee enhanced properties while also being EWG-safe and natural.