Drug Delivery, Vaccine Development Get Support from ARCS Foundation

Asheley Chapman, Jeffery Noble renew scholarships to fund their Ph.D. research

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A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
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College of Sciences

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Asheley Chapman, Jeffery Noble renew scholarships to fund their Ph.D. research in drug delivery and vaccine development.

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Asheley Chapman, Jeffery Noble renew scholarships to fund their Ph.D. research in drug delivery and vaccine development.

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  • Asheley Chapman and Jeffery Noble Asheley Chapman and Jeffery Noble
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Asheley Chapman and Jeffery Noble successfully renewed their scholarships from the ARCS Foundation. Both are members of the research group of M.G. Finn, professor and chair in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Both are in their fourth year of Ph.D. studies.

The ARCS Foundation annually gives 16 doctoral scholarships known as Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS). The scholarship is renewable for up to three years. This year’s award is the second scholarship for Chapman and the third for Noble. The award recognizes outstanding Ph.D. students with a record of past achievements and who show exceptional promise of contributing to the global advance of science and technology. 

Drug Delivery to Lymph Nodes

Chapman is working toward a Ph.D. in biochemistry, with emphasis on immunology. Her path to a science career is unusual, Finn says. Starting with a humanities degree, she retrained in a local college and then applied to graduate school. “Asheley clearly understands the special privilege it is to do scientific research, and she wants to make a difference,” Finn says.

For her scholarship renewal, Chapman proposed to study how to deliver drugs to specific lymph nodes using nanoparticle carriers. Lymph nodes are primary immune system organs. They house cells that are critical for rapid and adaptive immune response to infection. They are also a primary site of metastasis, where cancer cells from primary tumors can establish residence.  

Traditional treatments of lymphatic cancers and metastatic tumors include radiation, systemic chemotherapy, and removal of lymph nodes. All have serious side effects. Targeted delivery would enable use of lower drug doses and reduce side effects. The impact of Chapman’s research – conducted in collaboration with Susan Thomas, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Mechanical Engineering – could extend beyond cancer immunotherapy, because the delivery system is independent of the active-ingredient cargo. For example, it might be applied to vaccine delivery.

Vaccine Development  

Noble is doing a Ph.D. in bioengineering, one of several interdisciplinary graduate programs at Georgia Tech. His goal is to develop vaccines against bacterial and parasitic infections by training the immune system to recognize carbohydrate molecules on the surface of these pathogens. These molecules are long chains of small sugars, or polysaccharides. Because sugars are ubiquitous in the human body, the immune system poorly recognizes those on the surface of pathogens.                                                                                                 

However, sugars on pathogens are different from those in our bodies, and the Finn lab has developed a way to highlight those unique sugars to the immune system. They do so by attaching little bits of the sugars to a protein nanoparticle that looks like a virus. This approach has led to potential vaccines against leishmaniasis and bacterial pneumonia.

Now Noble is developing better ways to modify the protein nanoparticles and attach the sugar molecules to further improve the effectiveness of such vaccines. “Jeff’s methods could well enable us to produce vaccines that can attack leishmaniasis in dogs as well as in humans,” Finn says. “That kind of approach is essential in eradicating any infectious organism that can jump between two or more species.”  

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Groups

College of Sciences, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, EAS

Categories
Biotechnology, Health, Bioengineering, Genetics
Related Core Research Areas
Bioengineering and Bioscience
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Keywords
Vaccines, drug delivery, ARCS Foundation
Status
  • Created By: A. Maureen Rouhi
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Sep 23, 2019 - 9:10am
  • Last Updated: Sep 27, 2019 - 11:27am