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Veronica Correa
January 14, 2020

Zoey Tang, M.S., wants to translate research to clinical use.

The UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Ph.D. student is particularly interested in developing antibody treatments to more effectively target cancer cells.

Tang was recently selected to present her research at the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (ASPCT) Annual Meeting in Houston this March. The ASPCT conference focuses specifically on translational research. She also received the Presidential Trainee Abstract Award, which is given to top abstracts submitted for the conference.

“This is really inspiring, knowing your research can help understand the drug development process,” she said.

Tang, who holds degrees from China Pharmaceutical University and the University of Michigan, studies in UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics under advisor Carter Cao.

Her research focuses on monoclonal antibodies, which are proteins that bind to exactly one substance, and how they can directly target cancer cells. She has been working on this project for over two years. However, it’s difficult to noninvasively investigate how antibodies interact with targets in living animals because of technological constraints, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty around how monoclonal antibodies interact with the human body.

To work around these obstacles, Tang used bioluminescent resonance energy transfer (BRET) imaging technology to directly visualize molecular targeting in animals noninvasively. Briefly, BRET energy donors and acceptors are on target antigens and antibodies. The energy transfer between the energy donor and acceptor directly shows the antibody-target interaction.

“This is the first time we’ve actually seen how the antibodies actually interact with the targets in a living animal in a continuous manner,” she said. “We proved that BRET technology is suitable for quantifying this process. We will develop mathematical models to describe in vivo antibody-antigen interaction and it can be the first step of further learning target engagement in human bodies.”

Tang said in the future, she wants to investigate what factors can impact antibody treatments.

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