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Daniel Scott: Bionanotechnology: Improving therapeutic options

Research in the Scott lab lies in the interface between chemistry, biology, and nanotechnology in an effort to develop improved diagnostic and therapeutic systems with implications across medicine and pharmacy. There are several different projects students can be involved in with the major theme of generating new ways to treat and monitor cancer. This includes the use of bacteria to produce new anti-cancer molecules, which will be further modified to enhance not only the potency but also the specificity of the drugs toward cancer. These new molecules will be investigated with regard to their cytotoxicity toward cancerous and normal human tissue. Once generated, the new anticancer agents will also have the opportunity to be incorporated into a polymer nanoparticle drug delivery system. The delivery systems will be used to further optimize the delivery to drug to the tumor and reduce non-specific side effects. Nanotechnology will also be utilized to create a tunable drug delivery platform. Unwanted side effects are a major hurdle with current chemotherapy options. A system capable of selectively delivering a drug payload only when the nanoparticle has accumulated in a tumor will greatly improve the perspective for new and old anticancer drugs alike. To that end, biomolecules will be combined with inorganic and polymeric materials to create a tunable “theranostic” nanoparticle that will not only deliver multiple drugs at specified intervals but also be used to monitor disease state and therapeutic response. Nanoparticles are also currently being explored as an avenue to deliver a new HIV therapy in collaboration with a research group out the University of Washington College of Medicine.
Lastly, protein based biosensors can be explored in order to develop versatile and sensitive detection systems for a variety of biologically relevant molecules. Students will have the option to gain experience with a range of chemical and biochemical techniques including cell and tissue culture, natural product production and isolation, in vitro cytotoxicity assays, molecular biology, sensor development, and nanoparticle synthesis, optimization, and characterization. Students will be prepared for life after DePauw whether that includes professional school (medical, pharmacy, etc.), graduate school, or the workforce.