November 18, 2013
Leaf Huang, PhD, is the 2013 recipient of the Distinguished Pharmaceutical Scientist Award given by the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.
Huang is a Fred Eshelman Distinguished Professor in the School’s Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics and is a member of the Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He received the award from AAPS President Anthony J. DeStefano, PhD, during the opening session of the 2013 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition.
“This award is the highest distinction awarded by the most prominent organization of pharmaceutical scientists in the world,” says Bob Blouin, PharmD, dean of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. “This is not only a fitting recognition of Dr. Huang’s forty years of contributions to the pharmaceutical sciences, but it also validates the new direction in molecular pharmaceutics that he helped to establish and build at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.”
Huang’s laboratory has pioneered the development of nonviral vectors for delivery of gene-based therapies. His lab designed and manufactured the cationic lipid used in 1992 during the first clinical trial to employ nonviral gene therapy. Since then, his group has developed a self-assembly process to produce an improved membrane-core type nanoparticle resembling natural, enveloped viruses. These nanoparticles are able to evade liver macrophages, enhancing their potential as a delivery system. Huang was also among the first to find that polyethylene glycol prolongs the circulation time of liposomes.
Membrane-core nanoparticles have been used by the lab to effectively deliver siRNA, miRNA, and plasmid DNA-based therapies in animal models of cancer and liver disease. Inclusion of small molecule chemotherapeutic drugs within these nanoparticles is now under development in order to harness the synergistic effects of combination therapy. These efforts hold significant promise for future development of clinically effective gene and anticancer therapies.
Huang joined the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy in July 2005 as chair of the Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics. He received his PhD in biophysics at Michigan State University and was a member of the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (from 1976 to 1991) and the University of Pittsburgh (from 1991 to 2005) before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill. He has published more than 320 peer-reviewed articles, more than 120 invited reviews/book chapters, and has co-edited two books.