Elizabeth Wayne, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in cancer nanotechnology at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, has been selected as a TED fellow and will take the stage to deliver a talk at TED2017 this April in Vancouver. She joins a class of 15 young innovators from four continents and a program that has selected 414 fellows from 87 countries since its inception in 2009.
“As a graduate student, I wanted to use my physics training, but I wanted to solve a biological problem,” Wayne said. “The more I learned about cancer, the more I thought an interdisciplinary approach would help us get closer to a cure. I find that a holistic way of thinking about this problem is very motivating, and just thinking that I might have a perspective to offer that will help someone down the line is why I do what I do.”
Wayne’s research at the School surrounds cancer therapy. Specifically, she focuses on using cells to deliver proteins, genes and drugs as cancer therapy. It’s possible to deliver genetic material directly to disease sites and to regions of inflammation using macrophages, a kind of white blood cell usually found at infection sites. She is a fellow in the School’s Carolina Cancer Nanotechnology Training Program, a 24 to 36 month National Cancer Institute–sponsored T32 postdoctoral training program. She works in the lab of Alexander “Sasha” Kabanov, Ph.D.
Wayne says she wants to understand how macrophages can transfer genes in hopes of loading them with therapeutic gene constructs to treat breast cancer. This research will be the focus of Wayne’s talk at the TED Conference.
“One of the reasons why I think this idea is novel is because it’s kind of different from other types of immunotherapies,” she said. “I don’t want to activate cells, I just want to attach nanoparticles that carry genes.”
Wayne said she is honored to have been selected as a TED fellow and that being able to give a talk at the TED Conference will be a rewarding experience.
“There will be people at the conference who are likeminded and think that ideas can inspire the world, and it’s an amazing honor to be chosen because they think my ideas could change the world,” she said. “This is a platform that can help me reach my goals.”
Wayne received her Bachelor of Arts in physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 and her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Cornell University in 2015.