(6bo) Biomedical and Energy Applications of Lipids

Authors: 
Zhang, L., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Granick, S., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Langer, R., Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The main goal of this research program is to develop lipid-based biomaterials for healthcare and other medical applications and to understand the fundamental sciences underlying this problem. In addition, I am also interested in exploring energy-related applications of lipids. By combining the application prospects of lipid systems with the fundamental sciences behind them, I am expecting to exploit their synergies.

The significance in the biomedical field is that lipid assemblies, liposomes in particular, have been widely used as drug delivery carriers because of their ability to encapsulate drugs with high loading efficiency, to prolong drug circulation half-life, and to release drugs at a sustained rate or in an environmentally responsive manner. In addition to 11 liposomal drugs that have been approved for clinical use, numerous other liposome-based therapeutics are currently under various stages of clinical and preclinical development. I have many ideas to extend capabilities in this direction. The significance in the burgeoning field of bioenergy is that biomass such as soybean, palm, and algae and living organisms provides potential sources of lipids that could yield up to 9 kcal-gram-1 of energy. By converting lipids into fatty acid monoalkyl esters, I have ideas how to produce renewable biodiesel fuels from this route.

These research plans differ significantly from those of my postdoctoral and Ph.D. research advisors. Robert Langer at MIT has taught me much about biomedical research, but without the accompanying fundamental studies that I plan to include in my own research. Steve Granick at Illinois has taught me much about fundamental studies, but he does not carry them on to the next step of engineering applications, as I plan to do in my own research.

My current postdoctoral research at MIT has already led to 6 patent disclosures as well as 5 published or submitted papers. It focuses on designing lipid-related platform bionanotechnologies for developing nanocarriers for drug delivery in a targeted manner, which includes atherosclerosis therapy, cancer therapy and vaccine delivery. My Ph.D. research at Illinois led to 10 published and 3 submitted papers. At that time I extensively studied lipids, lipid membranes and their interactions with polymers, proteins, and nanoparticles from the perspective of fundamental sciences.