Delivering new methods of targeted drug delivery to optimize therapeutic efficacy of drugs and vaccines

stem cells

About MOPH

Molecular pharmaceutics deals with delivering and maintaining the desired amount of a therapeutic agent at the target site for a desired period of time and with cell-based therapies. The development of a drug or vaccine delivery system that accomplishes this is based on an understanding of their transport properties across biological barriers and subsequent biodistribution as well as the mechanism by which they are metabolized and eliminated. These drug-delivery systems are tested in cell-based functional assays and/or human disease models in animals. As such, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic assessments are the measure of performance of a given delivery system. The pharmacokinetics, be it at a subcellular/molecular level or an organ/tissue level, requires a sensitive and specific analytical method. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of research, most projects are in collaboration with colleagues of relevant expertise. The research currently being conducted by MOPH faculty and students involves improving the efficacy and delivery of a broad range of therapeutic agents, from small molecules to biologicals such as proteins, antibodies, oligonucleotides, genes, and cells.

Leaf HuangThere are many routes of administration, including oral, pulmonary, parenteral, percutaneous, and transmucosal. The design and fabrication of nanoparticulate drug carriers have received critical attention recently as they provide a new challenge as well as opportunities. Because of strong educational and training components in basic pharmaceutics, the division is ideally situated in bridging basic sciences to biomedical research. The Molecular Pharmaceutics program thus produces PhDs who will eventually engineer drug delivery systems for new therapies and vaccines intended for human use. The majority of these PhDs often find jobs in industry before graduation. Those who pursue an academic career usually spend a few more years as postdoctoral fellows at other institutions. During this period, they become independent investigators and refine their grantsmanship for future funding in academia. Whichever path they choose, our graduates have enjoyed outstanding employment throughout the history of the MOPH program.

If you would like to contribute to the FENG LIU STUDENT AWARD

Please visit the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Foundation website at

Or contact:

Office of Advancement and Alumni Affairs
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
194 Finley Golf Course Rd., Suite 106 Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.966.1929 (p) 919.843.9758 (f)


  • Sam Lai, Ph.D.

    Sam Lai Promoted to Associate Professor

    Sam Lai, Ph.D., has been promoted to associate professor with tenure in the Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics. Lai’s research focuses on mucosal immunology and mucosal barriers to infectious disease, antibody response to synthetic materials, targeted nanoparticle delivery using bispecific fusion … Continued

  • Surgically removing a brain tumor causes star-shaped cells called astrocytes to send signals announcing the “injury,” which stimulate any cancer cells left behind to move and grow 75 percent faster than they did before the tumor was removed.

    Removing a Brain Tumor Makes Remaining Cancer More Aggressive, UNC Study Finds

    Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill seeking a better treatment for glioblastoma have discovered that removing a brain tumor causes any cancer left behind to grow 75 percent faster than the original tumor did, which helps … Continued


  • MOPH offers a strong pharmaceutics program with emphasis in drug-delivery science and technology. We also offer the PhD in pharmaceutical sciences with an emphasis on pharmacoengineering, an emerging discipline that integrates engineering methods with pharmaceutical sciences.
  • The division features a distinguished faculty that includes  Alexander “Sasha” Kabanov, PhD, who joined the School in 2012 to lead the Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery.
  • MOPH’s external research support exceeds $8.5M annually, mostly from the National Institutes of Health, but also from NSF, DoD, private foundations and the pharma/biotech industry.
  • There are currently 28 graduate students and 12 postdoctoral fellows in the program.
  • MOPH faculty have successfully spun off seven biotech companies in recent years.
  • The division added 24,500 square feet of research space in 2008.