Cutting-edge research in drug development and delivery for students with backgrounds in engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacy and biology.

Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics (DPMP) offers two Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences tracks:

This Molecular Pharmaceutics Pharmaceutical Sciences Ph.D. track focuses on delivering and maintaining the desired amount of a therapeutic agent at the target site for a desired period of time through cutting-edge platforms. The development of therapeutic or vaccine delivery systems 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. This discipline is crucial for turning a new molecular entity into a safe and effective medication.

This program focuses on many routes of administration, including oral, pulmonary, parenteral, percutaneous, and transmucosal. Additionally, we study platforms that include cell-based therapies, lipid and polymeric nanotechnology, exosomes, antibodies, and viral and non-viral vectors for gene therapy. We conduct multidisciplinary research using knowledge in:

  • chemistry: physical-chemical aspects of drug molecules, polymer sciences, analytical chemistry,
  • engineering: nanotechnology, biophysics, mass transport and thermodynamics of drug molecules
  • biopharmaceutics: pharmacokinetics, drug metabolism.
  • biochemistry: immunology, genetics, drug mechanism of action
  • biology: cell and virus-based platforms, infectious diseases, neurology

From this program, students will understand drug delivery systems for new therapies and vaccines to improve human health. The majority of our Ph.D. students 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.

This DPMP PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences program has an emphasis on pharmacoengineering, an emerging discipline that integrates engineering methods with pharmaceutical sciences.  Pharmacoengineers apply the latest experimental approaches from life sciences, chemistry, and physics in conjunction with theoretical and quantitative methods from engineering, mathematics, and computer science to solve problems in medicine and drug therapies.

The program is among the first of its kind in the country and is a joint effort between the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics and the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.

Students work at the interface of engineering and pharmaceutical sciences to develop safer and more effective medicine and medical technologies. It provides students not only with a strong knowledge base in both pharmaceutical sciences and engineering, but also a highly interdisciplinary research experience. Students have the flexibility to work with any of more than two dozen outstanding faculty members with expertise in a variety of fields within pharmacy and engineering.

Our DPMP faculty is a highly collaborative and entrepreneurial group; they have applied 18 patents based on their research, and they have established seven new pharmaceutical and biotech companies in recent years. Several are members of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, which offers a wide array of core facilities that support their research activities.

  • Minimum of 24 credits of coursework including elective courses, but excluding 1 credit for seminar.
  • Participate in weekly seminar each semester. Students in their 3rd year have the opportunity to give a seminar each year. The final defense fulfills this requirement in the last year of study
  • Research credit (i.e. lab rotation) or dissertation credit of at least 3 hours per semester
  • Doctoral written and oral exam. The Qualifying Exam process (i.e, written and oral exam) is designed to assess the extent of the student’s knowledge acquired from course work in pharmaceutical science and test his or her ability to integrate and apply knowledge  to practical problems.
  • Dissertation and final defense
Topic/Course   Credit   Course Number   Semester
Ethical Dilemmas 1.25 PHRS 801 Fall
Nanomedicine 3 DPMP 738 Spring
Advanced Pharmaceutics 1.5 (total 3) DPMP 862/890 Spring, Fall
Advances in Drug Delivery 3 DPMP 864 Fall
PK Module 1: Pharmacokinetics 1.75 DPET 853 Fall
Biostatistics 3 BIOS 600 Spring
Drug Metabolism Module 1.5 DPMP 815 Spring
Math/Applied Math Elective 3 List below
Engineering Elective 3 List below
Seminar* 1 DPMP 899 Fall, Spring
Research 3 DPMP 991 Fall, Spring
Doctoral Dissertation >3** DPMP 994 Fall, Spring
Electives 6

* Students must register for seminar every semester in which they are in residence
** A minimum of 6 credit hours required for graduation; must be registered for at least 3 credit hours in the semester in which the final defense is conducted
Students are also required to take at least 9 credits of elective courses

Math Electives

  • BMME 515 Biomathematical Modeling
  • BMME 530 Digital Signal Processing I
  • BMME 775 Image Processing and Analysis
  • BMME 730 Digital Signal Processing II
  • BMME 860 Numerical Methods for Biomedical Engineering
  • MATH 528 Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences
  • MATH 535 Introduction to Probability
  • MATH 547 Linear Algebra for Applications
  • MATH 564 Math Modeling
  • MATH 566 Introduction to Numerical Analysis
  • MATH 577 Linear Algebra
  • MATH 661 Scientific Computation
  • MATH 768 Mathematical Modeling I

 

Engineering Electives

  • BMME 890 Bio Transport    3 credits
  • BMME 465 Biomedical Instrumentation I
  • BMME 532 Microelectrode Techniques
  • BMME 530 Digital Signal Processing
  • COMP 665 Images, Graphics and Vision
  • BMME 550 Medical Imaging: Ultrasound, MRI and Optical
  • BMME 560 Medical Imaging: X-ray, CT and Nuclear
  • BMME 551 Medical Device Design
  • BMME 580 Microcontroller Applications I
  • BMME 515 Introduction to Systems Biology
  • BMME 510 Biomaterials
  • BMME 505 Biomechanics
  • GNET 711-717 (3 x 1 credit) Bioinformatics

 

Suggested Electives

  • BIOC 643 Cell Structure, Function, and Growth Control I (2).  Fall.
  • BIOC 644 Cell Structure, Function, and Growth Control II (2) Spring.
  • BIOC 651 Macromolecular Equilibria: Conformation Change and Binding(1). Fall.
  • BMME 890 Biotechnology (3)
  • BMME 515 Introduction to Systems Biology (3)
  • BMME 510 Biomaterials (3)
  • BMME 790 Graduate Systems Physiology (3 )
  • CHEM 430 Introduction to Biological Chemistry (3). Fall and Spring.
  • CHEM 431 Macromolecular Structure and Metabolism (3). Spring.
  • CHEM 432 Metabolic Chemistry and Cellular Regulatory Networks  (3). . Fall.
  • CHEM 466 Advanced Organic Chemistry I (3).  Fall.
  • CHEM 467 Advanced Organic Chemistry II (2).  Spring.
  • CHEM 480 Introduction to Biophysical Chemistry (3). Fall.
  • CHEM 481 Physical Chemistry I (3).  Fall and Spring.
  • PHCO701 Introduction to Molecular Pharmacology (2).  Fall.
  • PHCO702  Principles  of  Pharmacology  and  Physiology  (3). Spring.
  • MCRO614 Immunobiology (3) Fall.
  • NC State BEC 475 Global Regulatory Affairs for Medical Products (online)
  • NC State BEC 462/BEC 562/CHE 462 Fundamentals of Bio-Nanotechnology=

Other courses can fulfill these electives upon petition by the student and approval by the director of graduate studies or the student’s Ph.D. advisory committee.

 

Excluding research and seminar credits but including credits from elective courses, students must take a minimum of 24 credits of course work prior to sitting for the Qualifying Exam. Students who have taken relevant coursework prior to enrollment in the Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics Graduate Program may use that coursework to satisfy graduate course requirements provided that the courses were taken within 8 years of entry into the graduate program and that passing scores (H, P, or A, B) were received. Courses taken more than 8 years previously may be waived on a case-by-case basis (particularly if the individual has been using the relevant skills frequently) at the discretion of the research advisor and with the approval of the division faculty. All requests for waivers of required courses should be submitted in writing to the division director of graduate studies for review by the division faculty. Note that while a student may waive a particular required course, he or she must still complete a minimum of 24 credits of course work.

This DPMP Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences track has an emphasis in pharmacoengineering, an emerging discipline that integrates engineering methods with pharmaceutical sciences. Pharmacoengineers apply the latest experimental approaches from life sciences, chemistry, and physics in conjunction with theoretical and quantitative methods from engineering, mathematics, and computer science to solve problems in medicine and drug therapies.

We believe in the importance of in-depth training of students both in pharmaceutical sciences and modern engineering, mathematics, and computer science, as well as in the conduct of original research leading to the doctoral dissertation. Thus, we have designed the curriculum to offer rigorous and comprehensive training in the key principles of pharmaceutical sciences and engineering yet maintain a high degree of flexibility for students to tailor the coursework to their specific interests suitable to their research projects.

The program is among the first of its kind in the country and is a joint effort between the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics and the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.

Students work at the interface of engineering and pharmaceutical sciences to develop safer and more effective medicine and medical technologies. It provides students not only with a strong knowledge base in both pharmaceutical sciences and engineering, but also a highly interdisciplinary research experience. Students have the flexibility to work with any of more than two dozen outstanding faculty members with expertise in a variety of fields within pharmacy and engineering.

Core Courses

MOPH 864 Pharmacoengineering in Drug Delivery 3 credits
BMME 890 Bio Transport 3 credits

Pharmaceutical Sciences

DPET 855 Principles of Pharmacokinetics 3 credits
MOPH 862 Advanced Pharmaceutics 3 credits

Engineering Emphasis

MATH Math/Applied Math Elective (Chose from list below) 3 credits
BMME Engineering Elective 1 (Chose from list below) 3 credits

Statistics

BIOS 550 Basic Elements of Probability and Statistical Inference 3 credits
or
DPET 831 Design and Analysis of Clinical Drug Trials 3 credits

General Electives

General Elective 1 3 credits
General Elective 2 3 credits
Arranged with research adviser; to be specific for research area

Seminar

BMME 890 BME Graduate Seminar (every semester) 1 credit
and
MOPH 899 Molecular Pharmaceutics Seminar 1 credit

Ethics

CTRC Responsible Conduct of Research (choose one) 1 credit
GRAD 721; Research Ethics
PHCY 801: Ethical Dilemmas in Research

Dissertation Research

MOPH/BMME Doctoral Dissertation variable

 

Math/Applied Math Electives

BMME 515 Biomathematical Modeling
BMME 530 Digital Signal Processing I
BMME 775 Image Processing and Analysis
BMME 730 Digital Signal Processing II
BMME 860 Numerical Methods for Biomedical Engineering
MATH 528 Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences
MATH 535 Introduction to Probability
MATH 547 Linear Algebra for Applications
MATH 564 Math Modeling
MATH 566 Introduction to Numerical Analysis
MATH 577 Linear Algebra
MATH 661 Scientific Computation
MATH 768 Mathematical Modeling I

Engineering Electives

BMME 465 Biomedical Instrumentation I
BMME 532 Microelectrode Techniques
BMME 530 Digital Signal Processing
COMP 665 Images, Graphics and Vision
BMME 550 Medical Imaging: Ultrasound, MRI and Optical
BMME 560 Medical Imaging: X-ray, CT and Nuclear
BMME 551 Medical Device Design
BMME 580 Microcontroller Applications I
BMME 515 Introduction to Systems Biology
BMME 510 Biomaterials
BMME 505 Biomechanics
GNET 711-717 (3 x 1 credit) Bioinformatics

 

Other courses can fulfill these electives upon petition by the student and approval by the director of graduate studies or the student’s Ph.D. advisory committee.

DPMP Primary Faculty

Kristy Ainslie

(919) 962-4556

ainsliek@email.unc.edu

Kristy Ainslie, Ph.D. applies her knowledge base in biomaterials, and immunology to develop new immune-modulatory therapies that treat and prevent infectious, and autoimmune diseases. Her lab aims to design practical and innovative formulations, taking into account the scalable production and applications in developing nations.

Aaron Anselmo

(919) 966-1126

aanselmo@email.unc.edu

The Anselmo lab focuses on understanding microbe-material-host tissue interactions to develop: (i) formulations for the improved delivery of therapeutic microbes, (ii) materials-based in vitro culture approaches to enable the co-culture of microbial ecologies alongside mammalian cells, and (iii) targeted approaches for the delivery of therapeutic microbes.

Shawn D Hingtgen

(919) 537-3827

hingtgen@email.unc.edu

Due to their expansive utility, stem cell-based therapies hold the potential to redefine therapeutic approaches and provide cures for many terminal diseases. In the Hingtgen lab, we seek to harness the potential of stem cells to develop new and better methods for treating terminal cancers, including brain cancer. We use an integrative approach that begins with creating specially designed targeted therapeutic proteins.

Leaf Huang

(919) 843-0736

leafh@email.unc.edu

The Laboratory of Drug Targeting has been working on liposomes and immunoliposomes for drug delivery. Current activities are focused in the development of nonviral vectors for gene (including siRNA) therapy, and receptor mediated drug and vaccine targeting using self-assembled nanoparticles. The technologies are tested for therapy of cancer and liver diseases in animal models.

Michael Jay

(919) 843-3775

mjay@email.unc.edu

Mike Jay, Ph.D., received his B.S. in pharmacy from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976 and his Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Kentucky in 1980. He was an assistant professor of nuclear medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center from 1980 to 1981 and then returned to the University of Kentucky as an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry in 1981 and rose through the academic ranks. By the end of his twenty-seven years at the University of Kentucky, he was professor of pharmaceutics and professor of radiology.

Alexander V. Kabanov

kabanov@email.unc.edu

Alexander “Sasha” Kabanov, Ph.D., Dr.Sci., is the Mescal Swaim Ferguson Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and codirector of the Carolina Institute for Nanomedicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to joining UNC-Chapel Hill in July 2012, Kabanov served for nearly eighteen years at the University of Nebraska Medical Center where he was the Parke-Davis Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the Center for Drug Delivery and Nanomedicine, which he founded in 2004.

Sam Lai

(919) 966-3024

lai@unc.edu

Sam Lai, Ph.D., was born in Hong Kong and spent his childhood in both Hong Kong and Vancouver. After completing high school at Phillips Academy, Andover, he attended Cornell University and received his BS in chemical and biomolecular engineering in 2003. He then undertook doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University, receiving his PhD in chemical and biomolecular engineering in 2007. Following a one-year postdoc, he became a research assistant professor at Johns Hopkins in fall 2008 before joining the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy in fall 2010.

Juliane Nguyen

(919) 962-4538

julianen@email.unc.edu

Dr. Juliane Nguyen is an Associate Professor in the Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics. Her translational research program focuses on developing the next generation of safe and effective biotherapeutics for life-threatening diseases such as cancer and myocardial infarction.

Philip Smith

(919) 962-0095

pcs@email.unc.edu

Dr. Smith received a B.S. in Pharmacy from the University of Illinois, Chicago Medical Center, and then a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, with an emphasis in pharmacokinetics, in 1985 from the University of California, San Francisco. After postdoctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, as a National Research Council Fellow, he joined the faculty of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Texas at Austin.

Xiao Xiao

(919) 843-7351

xxiao@email.unc.edu

Xiao received a B.S. in pharmaceutical chemistry from the Shanghai Medical University School of Pharmacy in 1982. He received a M.S. in biochemistry in 1985 from Wuhan University in China and a Ph.D. in biology in 1992 from the University of Pittsburgh.

DPMP Joint Appointments

Paul Dayton

(919) 843-9521

padayton@email.unc.edu

Prior to joining UNC in 2007, Dayton was research faculty at the University of California at Davis. His research interests currently involve applications of ultrasound imaging for assessment of tissue perfusion and monitoring of response to therapy. Other interests include ultrasound-mediated therapeutic approaches.

Joseph M. DeSimone

(919) 962-2166

desimone@email.unc.edu

The recent breakthroughs in the DeSimone laboratories using specifically-designed materials for imprint or soft lithography have enabled an extremely versatile and flexible method for the direct fabrication and harvesting of monodisperse, shape-specific nano-biomaterials. The method, referred to as Particle Replication In Non-wetting Templates, or PRINT, allows for the fabrication of monodisperse particles with simultaneous control over structure (i.e. shape, size, composition) and function (i.e. cargo, surface structure).

Zongchao Han

zongchao@med.unc.edu

The Zongchao Han, Ph.D., M.D., laboratory is interested in developing gene therapies for retinal diseases. Han’s lab is particularly interested in understanding the gene expression patterns that are regulated by the cis-regulatory elements. Another interest of the Han laboratory is to produce a multifunctional NP carrier for specific and efficient gene/drug targeting.

Andrew Wang

(646) 265-7608

zawang@med.unc.edu

The central theme of Wang’s research program is to apply advances from other fields such as chemical engineering, materials science, biomedical engineering and nanotechnology, to the field of oncology.

DPMP Research Faculty

Eric Michael Bachelder

ebacheld@email.unc.edu

Bachelder focuses on the development of biomaterials for the treatment of diseases associated with the immune system, inlcuding using liposomes, acid sensitive polymers, and tissue engineering scaffolds.

Elena V Batrakova

(919) 537-3712

batrakov@email.unc.edu

The main focus of Batrakova’s research is to develop a CNS delivery system for antioxidants and neuronal growth factors to attenuate neuroinflammation and produce neuroprotection in patients with neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. For this purpose, her group utilizes inflammatory-response cells, macrophages and monocytes that can migrate toward the inflammation site, cross the blood brain barrier, and release the preloaded drugs in the brain.

Marina Sokolsky

(919) 962-4698

msokolsk@email.unc.edu

Sokolsky-Papkov’s current research centers on design of nano-based, sustained release and remote actuated drug delivery systems for treatment and diagnosis of cancer. My research utilizes several platform nanoparticles based technologies (polymeric micelles and nanoparticles, cell derived exosomes and inorganic nanoparticles) and is focused on engineering treatment modalities for two main types of cancer: brain cancer and brain metastases and diagnosis and treatment of post operative residual disease and metastatic spread with emphasis on (1) designing drug loaded nanoparticles which can effectively home to brain cancer in vivo and deliver tumor specific payload to improve treatment efficacy (2) utilize sustained release and nanotechnology approaches to design delivery systems which can improve non invasive diagnosis of primary metastatic spread, treat residual disease and promote post-operative would healing and (3) utilize intrinsic properties of inorganic nanoparticles to design theranostic delivery systems which combine remotely induced drug release and cell apoptosis.

DPMP Clinical Faculty

DPMP Adjunct Faculty

Ronald Brashear
ron.l.brashear@gsk.com

Geoffrey Hird
Geoffrey_Hird@eisai.com

Matthew Burke
matthew.d.burke@gsk.com

Ke Cheng
kcheng3@email.unc.edu

Ramprakash Govindarajan
ramprakash.x.govindarajan@gsk.com

Qi-Long Lu
Qi.Lu@carolinashealthcare.org

Manmohan Singh
manmohan.singh@Takeda.com

Natalia Klyachko
nlklyachko@gmail.com

Zhen Gu
zgu@email.unc.edu

Ken Brouwer
KennethBrouwer@Qualyst.com

Alan Parr
alan.f.parr@gsk.com

Zongchao Han
zongchao@med.unc.edu

Kazunori Kataoka
kataoka@bmw.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp

Eric Smith
eric_smith@med.unc.edu

David A. Zaharoff
dazaharo@ncsu.edu

DPMP Staff