Dr. Julie Champion Receives Three Research Grants for Her Work on Developing Protein-based Therapeutic Biomaterials with Anti-inflammatory Properties

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Dr. Julie Champion, assistant professor in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech, has been named a recipient of three research grants.

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Dr. Julie Champion, assistant professor in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech, has been named a recipient of three research grants for her work on developing protein-based therapeutic biomaterials with anti-inflammatory properties.

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  • Dr. Julie Champion Dr. Julie Champion
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Dr. Julie Champion, assistant professor in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech, has been named a recipient of three research grants for her work on developing protein-based therapeutic biomaterials with anti-inflammatory properties.

The first award is sponsored by the Georgia Tech and Emory Center for Regenerative Medicine (GTEC) for a project to study new approaches for engineering multi-functional materials that control inflammation and infection to improve wound healing. The award provides funding for one year.

Dr. Champion’s study will focus on minimizing inflammation in severe wounds while preventing infection. Inflammation is a critical step in the wound healing response, not only in preventing infection, but also by providing some of the signals required for new tissue formation and remodeling. However, severe wounds, such as those seen in combat, often exhibit a prolonged inflammatory period and significant scar formation instead of regeneration of functional tissue. Scar tissue can prohibit movement and constrict further over time, requiring physical therapy and often, surgical intervention.

In order to control inflammation, Dr. Champion’s lab is designing materials that degrade inflammatory chemical signals called cytokines. They incorporate enzymes from bacteria that naturally destroy cytokines. The drawback of decreased inflammation is increased likelihood of infection. To avoid this possibility, antibiotics will be sequestered in the materials and released over time—thus providing the second functionality for wound healing.

The second award, a Broadening Participation Research Initiation Grant in Engineering (BRIGE), is sponsored by the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) Division of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The BRIGE funding, a two-year award, will be used to create protein nanoparticles that mimic the ability of human pathogens to control inflammation. The particles will have applications in autoimmune diseases such as arthritis. Proteins from viruses and bacteria will be linked together to create “cytokine sponges” that sequester inflammatory cytokines inside the body. The trick is to block cytokine signaling by immune cells without alerting them to the presence of foreign proteins. The Champion lab hopes to achieve this goal by altering the shape and surface chemistry of the particles. Equally important in this research are activities to encourage participation of underrepresented groups in engineering. For example, Dr. Champion is hosting middle school girls in her lab to design their own “drug delivery particles” when they visit campus for a week-long technology & engineering camp.

The third award is a joint project with Dr. Andy Neish of Emory University Medical School who studies inflammatory disorders of the intestine. The award is given by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation for one year. The project seeks to develop new therapeutics for inflammatory bowl disease by delivering a bacterial protein that interferences with inflammatory pathways inside the epithelial cells lining the intestine. For their contribution, the Champion lab is synthesizing nanoparticles capable of protecting the sensitive protein during its travel through the gastrointestinal tract to the inflamed regions of the gut and inside epithelial cells. Achieving this goal requires particles that change their properties in response to the many different environments to which they will be exposed en route.

Dr. Champion joined the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering in 2009 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at California Institute of Technology. She received her doctoral degree from University of California Santa Barbara in 2007 and her bachelor’s degree from University of Michigan in 2001.

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School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

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Keywords
biomaterials, chemical & biomolecular engineering, chemical engineering, cytokines, inflammatory, julie champion, wound treatment
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  • Created By: Josie Giles
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Oct 13, 2010 - 12:49pm
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:07pm