Yale Biomedical Engineer Creating Nanotech Drug Delivery with L'Oreal USA Award
Woodrow is developing new drug delivery strategies and diagnostic tools for monitoring and treating infectious diseases and cancer. She is designing biodegradable nanoparticles that can direct themselves to specific targets inside cells and at the same time deliver therapeutic molecules to those sites.
“Medication only helps a patient if it goes to the right place. Our goal is to make sure it happens as often and as effectively as possible,” said Woodrow.
Looking to nature for a model, Woodrow is aiming to harness what is known about viral drug delivery to develop a safe and effective system for sustained delivery of various agents: DNA, RNA, peptides, proteins and small molecule drugs. Her nanoparticles will exhibit features that enable drug targeting at the tissue, cell, and molecular level.
Among the specific targets in Woodrow’s sites are the blood vessels that support tumor growth. Her strategy for improved therapy uses nanoparticles as a controlled-release system to deliver anti-angiogenic factors into tumors.
Identifying and understanding the biology of cell signals and molecular targets for Woodrow’s nanoparticles has been a collaborative venture with laboratories in the department of Pharmacology and at the Yale Cancer Center. Initial experiments are focused on delivering peptide and siRNA therapeutics.
Woodrow’s background in both life sciences and engineering gives her a unique perspective and scientific outlook. Her undergraduate studies in molecular biology were followed by a doctorate in chemical engineering from Stanford University in 2006. Although early in her career, she has already developed a procedure for the rapid expression of functional protein arrays using cell-free protein synthesis, and shares a patent for a nucleic acid delivery system.
“This award is tremendously important recognition. Kim is already an exceptional and creative scientist, but she is also destined to be a leader in the years to come,” said her mentor, Mark Saltzman, professor and chair of biomedical engineering. “Her work will most likely translate into new technology for imaging and treating diseases.”
These highly competitive annual awards are given to encourage women at the beginning of their careers to continue in science by supporting them financially and helping them strengthen their networks in the scientific community. Each honoree receives a $40,000 grant toward her independent scientific research. The program began in 2003 and is a component of the UNESCO-L’Oréal International Fellowships program.
“It is vital that we encourage emerging scientists who hold the key to future discoveries,” said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, who presided over the selection jury. “L’Oréal USA’s visionary fellowships program cultivates women scientists and provides essential support as they embark on their careers.”