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Kristie Ainslie, Ph.D.

Kristy Ainslie, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, has been granted tenure.

Ainslie joined the School in 2014. Prior to that, she spent almost five years as an assistant professor in the Ohio State University’s Division of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

The research of the Ainslie lab is centered on immune-targeted therapies for the development of vaccines and treatment of autoimmune and infectious diseases. Ainslie is currently working on host cell-directed therapeutics for treatment of pathogenic infections, as well as the formulation of safer vaccines to prevent infection. Also, she is working on antigen specific therapies to treat autoimmune diseases that suppress the immune response specifically, rather than universally suppressing the immune system, like many current therapies.

Ainslie has published 40 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 28 as either first author or senior author. In her academic career, she has been awarded more than $10 million as principal investigator and approximately $2.5 million as co-investigator. She has served as a peer reviewer on more than 15 NIH grant review panels as well as several additional international and domestic review panels. In 2007 and 2009, she received the Controlled Release Society’s Outstanding Oral Drug Delivery Award.

Examples of her research include the development of protein subunit vaccines in nano- and micro-particulate form against potential bioterrorism agents and infectious diseases using the polymer acetalated dextran or Ac-DEX. Ainslie’s group was able to demonstrate increased levels of toxin neutralizing antibodies using an electrospray formulation and show that a more intact protein structure is observed with this method compared to other approaches. This method of particle fabrication is significantly more scalable than most current methods, Ainslie said.

She has also formulated a small molecule called AR-12 to improve its efficacy against several potentially lethal infections, including salmonella. AR-12 is a host-directed therapy that modulates autophagy to essentially “bounce” out intracellular pathogens like salmonella, Ainslie said. This is the basis of her recently awarded $6 million R01 grant in which she will be working with scientists at the Research Triangle Institute, National Taiwan University and Washington State University to optimize AR-12, formulate the optimized compounds and assess their efficacy in both cell and animal models.

Ainslie has also begun working in new areas, including development of vaccine formulations for influenza, as well as with electrospun polymer scaffolds for drug release and stem cell delivery for glioblastoma treatment in collaboration with Assistant Professor Shawn Hingtgen, Ph.D.

Ainslie in lab
Kristie Ainslie, Ph.D., (center) with DPMP graduate students

In addition to her research program, Ainslie is currently supervising one research assistant professor, five postdoctoral fellows, four Ph.D. students and four undergraduate students. In each of the last two years she has been at UNC, she has given six lecture-hours to Pharm.D. students in pharmaceutics. She has also presented lectures in graduate courses, including Advanced Pharmaceutics, Physical Pharmacy and Advances in Drug Delivery and was co-instructor of the DPMP seminar course PHRS 899 for two semesters. She was an active member of the School’s Graduate Program Governance Committee helping to establish a new outline for the graduate curriculum. Recently Ainslie has led the work to radically revise the DPMP graduate curriculum to develop new core courses. She also represents the School as a member of the UNC Graduate School Administrative Board and Academic Policy Committee.

In addition, for the past two years, Ainslie has organized the graduate students in DPMP to participate in the STEAM night at Mary Scroggs Elementary in Chapel Hill by developing science demonstrations for students, including the forensics show “Who Broke the Cookie Jar?” and constructing a hovercraft.

Originally from Michigan, Ainslie received her Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Michigan State University and earned both her master’s and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Pennsylvania State University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.

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