The Center is a multi-disciplinary, multi-departmental entity, involving faculty members who

  1. share the vision and mission of the Center,
  2. are appointed as the Center members, and
  3. contribute to the Center’s work.

CNDD has been instrumental in recruiting 12 new faculty members at UNC-CH in the nanotechnology and drug delivery research area, including the current director of the center, Alexander Kabanov, Ph.D., Dr.Sci. who relocated from the University of Nebraska Medical Center with a team of 20 scientists in August 2012.

Recruitment of Kabanov, a world leader in nanomedicine as the director, has been a major milestone for CNDD. During the last four years, CNDD has grown from six to 23 core faculty members, and now includes investigators from nine different departments at UNC, NCSU and Duke University.

There are six adjunct center members who contribute to center activities, such as graduate courses in the area of drug delivery and nanomedicine, facilitation of the Carolina Nanofomulation Workshop, and more.

The Center’s membership growth has been enhanced by

  1. recruitment of new faculty working in the area of drug delivery and nano medicine,
  2. development of new collaborations between faculty in the area of drug delivery and nano medicine,
  3. establishment of cross-center programs and activities, and
  4. development of resources including core facilities that facilitate nanomedicine research and educational activities of center members.

Joseph M. DeSimone, Ph.D.

(919) 962-2166

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, M.D., Ph.D.

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.

Michael Jay, Ph.D.

(919) 843-3775

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.

Sam Lai, Ph.D.

(919) 966-3024

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.

Marina Sokolsky, Ph.D.

(919) 962-4698

Sokolsky-Papkov’s project focuses on remotely actuated theranostic drug delivery systems. These systems are bi-modal systems, which contain an imaging agent (specifically MRI responsive superparamagnetic nanoparticles, Fe3O4) and a drug-loading segment.

Kristy Ainslie, Ph.D.

(919) 962-4556

Kristy Ainslie, Ph.D., joined the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy in 2014 as an associate professor in the Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics. Prior to that, she spent almost five years as an assistant professor at the Ohio State University’s Division of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Edward Moreira Bahnson, Ph.D.

(919) 843-0842

Bahnson’s interest in diabetic vasculopathies is two-fold: understanding the difference in plaque progression and restenosis rates in the diabetic vs. non-diabetic environment. Atherosclerosis leading to CVD and PAD is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in diabetic patients. It is paramount to gain insight into the particular diabetic milieu that so profoundly affects the progression of atherosclerotic disease and the rates of restenosis after revascularization.

Elena V Batrakova, Ph.D.

(919) 537-3712

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.

Paul Dayton, Ph.D.

(919) 843-9521

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.

Zhen Gu, Ph.D.

(919) 515-7944

Gu’s research interests include integrating biomaterials design, biomolecular engineering, and micro/nanofabrication toward on-demand drug delivery focused on cancer, diabetes, and regenerative medicine. He obtained his PhD in 2010, with a major in MEMS and nanotechnology at the University of California, Los Angeles, under the guidance of Yi Tang in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Eningeering and Yong Chen in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Shawn D Hingtgen, Ph.D.

(919) 537-3827

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, Ph.D.

(919) 843-0736

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.

Alexander V. Kabanov, Ph.D., Dr.Sci.

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.

Melina R. Kibbe, M.D.

(919) 445-0369

Kibbe’s research interests focus on developing novel therapies for patients with vascular disease while simultaneously studying the mechanism of how these therapies impact the vascular wall. She is currently PI on 3 NIH R01 awards and 1 VA Merit award, in addition to serving as co-Investigator on several other NIH awards to evaluate novel therapies for patients with peripheral arterial disease.

Rihe Liu, Ph.D.

(919) 843-3635

Rihe Liu received his bachelor’s degree in polymer physics from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1988. He did his graduate work from 1992 to 1996 with Professor Leslie E. Orgel at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and received his PhD in biochemistry from the University of California at San Diego.

Chad V. Pecot, M.D.

Pecot is a lung cancer specialist with a particular interest in how RNA interference (RNAi) can regulate cancer metastases. Because metastases are responsible for the death of nearly all cancer patients, the ability to control this process is vital. In collaboration with our Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, he is studying how nanoparticle-based platforms can be exploited to target the metastatic process.

Nick Tsihlis, Ph.D.

(919) 843-5243

Tsihlis is focused on developing and evaluating therapies for patients with vascular disease, as well as understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying how these therapies work. Specifically, he has been working on describing the link between UbcH10, a protein that is required for proper cell cycle progression and cell proliferation, and nitric oxide (NO).

Andrew Wang, M.D.


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.

William Zamboni, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

(919) 843-6665

William Zamboni, Pharm.D., Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is the director of UNC GLP Bioanalytical Facility and the director of the Translational Oncology and Nanoparticle Drug Development Initiative (TOND2I) Lab. His research interests focus on the application of pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, and pharmacogenetic principles in the optimization of the chemotherapeutic treatment of cancer.

Faculty with Duke University Appointments

Ashutosh Chilkoti, Ph.D.

Ashutosh_ChilkotiAshutosh Chilkoti is the Theo Pilkington Professor and the chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University. His research in biomolecular engineering and biointerface science focuses on the development of new molecular tools and technology’s that borrow from molecular biology, protein engineering, polymer chemistry, and surface science that can then be exploited for the development of applications that span the range from bioseparations, plasmonic biosensors, low-cost clinical diagnostics, and drug delivery. Chilkoti received his Ph.D. from The University of Washington.

Michael Rubinstein, Ph.D.

michael_rubinsteinMichael Rubinstein’s research focuses on various properties of polymeric systems. The types of repeating units that make up the polymers and the way these molecular chains coil up determine what properties the polymer will have, making a material strong like silk or bouncy like rubber. Rubinstein aims to understand and model these various properties so researchers can design new materials that exhibit more interesting and useful features based on what functions the material needs to perform. Rubinstein completed his M.A. and Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics at Harvard University. He is now a faculty member at Duke University in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, with joint appointments in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, and Physics.

Fan Yuan, Ph.D.

fan_yuanFan Yuan’s research interests include drug and gene delivery, mechanisms of molecular transport in cells and tissues, and tumor pathophysiology. The goal of Yuan’s research is two-fold. One is to improve delivery of therapeutic agents in solid tumors; and the second is to understand mechanisms of drug resistance in tumors caused by intrinsic cellular heterogeneity and physiological barriers. These studies may provide useful information on how to improve clinical treatment of cancer based on currently available drugs or molecular medicines in the future. Research projects include quantification of transport parameters, delivery of drugs encapsulated in temperature sensitive liposomes, physical interventions of drugs, electric field-mediated gene delivery, mathematical modeling of drug and gene delivery. Dr. Yuan received his B.S. and M.S at Beijing University, and completed his Ph.D. at City University of New York.

Tatiana Bronich, Ph.D.

bronichTatiana Bronich’s research interests are in the area of self-assembling polymer materials and applications of these materials in medicine. Of special interest is the design and study of novel types of functional materials based on complexes formed between block ionomers and oppositely charged polymers and low molecular weight amphiphilic molecules. These systems are of great fundamental importance as models of biological systems formed as a result of self-assembly processes. In addition, her recent work has expanded to include the application of these amphiphilic block copolymers and block ionomer complexes in drug delivery to treat cancer and the development of the polycation-DNA complexes for gene delivery. Bronich completed her M.S. and Ph.D. at Moscow State University.

Yevgeny Brudno, Ph.D.

yevgeny_brudnoYevgeny Brudno is faculty at the Joint Biomedical Engineering Department at UNC-Chapel Hill and NCSU-Raleigh. Research in the Brudno lab focuses on exploiting cutting-edge chemical, biomaterial and nanomedicine technologies to understand physiological responses during disease and regeneration and fulfill critical unmet needs in the clinic. His group will use chemical prodrug therapy, controlled drug delivery and nanomedicine to enable new forms of cancer chemotherapy and immunotherapy as well as treatment of infection and other diseases.

Kazunori Kataoka, Ph.D.

Kazunori-Kataoka400x400Kazunori Kataoka serves as director of the Center for NanoBio Integration at the University of Tokyo. He serves as a member of the scientific advisory board at Appian Labs, LLC. He is the Editor of Journal of Biomaterials Science, Polymer Edition, the editor of Journal of Controlled Release (Controlled Release Society), and the associate editor of Biomacromolecules (American Chemical Society). He has been the President of Japanese Society of Gene Design and Delivery since 2004 and a vice president of the Society of Polymer Science, Japan since 2008. He serves on the editorial board of twelve international journals. He has been a visiting professor at Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich since 2008. He is professor of Biomaterials at the University of Tokyo, with a joint appointment in the Division of Clinical Biotechnology at the Center for Disease Biology and Integrative Medicine at the University of Tokyo Medical School. He received B.S. (1974) degree in Organic Chemistry, and M.S. (1976) and Ph.D. (1979) degrees in Polymer Chemistry at the University of Tokyo under the guidance of Prof. Teiji Tsuruta.

Natalia Klyachko, Ph.D.

Natalia-KlyachkoNatalia Klyachko serves as deputy director of Nanobiomaterials and Nanobiotechnology at Moscow State University, as well as a professor in Chemistry, and as deputy head chair of Chemical Enzymology at MSU.



Robert Luxenhofer, Ph.D.

Luxenhofer_normalRobert Luxenhofer completed his doctorate in polymer chemistry with the development of novel functional polymers for applications in nanomedicine at the Technische Universität München, Germany, in 2007. During a postdoctoral stay at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, USA he studied endocytosis of different nanomedicines and developed novel high-capacity drug delivery systems. In 2009 he moved to the Technische Universität Dresden, Germany and is since developing high-performance polymers for applications in nanomedicine.

Aaron Mohs, Ph.D.

Aaron MohsAaron Mohs received his B.A. in Chemistry from St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict (Collegeville, MN).  He subsequently completed his Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Utah, training under Zheng-Rong LuMost recently, Mohs completed his postdoctoral fellowship in joint Emory-Georgia Tech Department of Biomedical Engineering, as an Emory-GT Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence Distinguished Fellow under the mentorship of Shuming Nie.

Judy Riffle, Ph.D.

jriffleJudy Riffle received a B.S. in Textiles from Virginia Tech, as well as completing her Ph.D. in Chemistry and serving as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry at VT. Dr. Riffle managed the Materials Division of Thoratec Laboratories before advancing to V.P. of Research and Development there. She has and continues to serve as a professor in the Chemistry Department at Virginia Tech, where she is also the director of Macromolecular Science and Engineering Education.

NIH T32 Supported Postdoctoral Fellows

Emily B Harrison, Ph.D.

Harrison joined UNC in 2016 after receiving her B.S. from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and her Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She studied the role of microRNAs in traumatic brain injury under the guidance of Howard Fox, Ph.D. Her current research focus, under the guidance of Chad Pecot, M.D., is uncovering novel miRNA regulators of cancer metastasis and exploring therapeutic strategies for microRNA delivery and inhibition.

Shahin Sendi, M.D., Ph.D.

Sendi joined UNC in 2017. He received an MD from Tehran University, Iran, an Mphil in Infection Biology from Karolinska Institute, Sweden and a PhD in Molecular Cell Biology from UNC Charlotte in 2013 where he worked on molecular pathogenesis of HCV. He has been working on the molecular pathogenesis of liver diseases. He is currently working under the guidance of Drs. Andrew Wang and Alexander Kabanov to explore nano-particle based treatment of liver metastasis.

Pamela Tiet, Ph.D.

Tiet earned her B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of California, Berkeley. She later graduated from City of Hope with a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences with an emphasis on nanotechnology under the guidance of Jacob Berlin, Ph.D. Pamela has been accepted into the NIH Carolina Center for Nanotechnology Training Program as a T32 postdoctoral fellow at UNC. Here, she will focus on cancer immunotherapy under the mentorship of Kristy Ainslie, Ph.D. and Jenny Ting, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Wayne, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Wayne, Ph.D., is an NIH Carolina Center for Nanotechnology Training Program T32 postdoctoral fellow in the Carolina Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Prior to UNC, she completed her Ph.D. at Cornell University in biomedical engineering in 2016 and earned her B.A. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009. Wayne has been named a 2017 TED Fellow.

NIH T32 Associated Fellows

Yusuf Kemal Demir, Ph.D.

Demir earned his PhD from the Institute of Health Sciences, Marmara University in 2012. He also holds a Master of Philosophy from The School of Pharmacy, The Queen’s University Belfast and a BS from Marmara University.  He joined the laboratory of Alexander Kabanov in 2017. Demir’s current research interests include synthesis of magnetic nanoparticle and exosome mediated drug deliver and the use of polymeric nanoparticles for drug delivery. One of his aims is to conjugate magnetic nano-particles with exosomes to ultimately recruit them as drug delivery system. He is also trying to combine multi scale (micro and nano) bio-materials for drug delivery purposes.

Lida Ghazanfari, Ph.D.

Ghazanfari earned her PhD from Amirkabir University of Technology in 2014. She also holds MSc and BSc degrees in biomedical engineering from Amirkabir University of Technology. Ghazanfari joined the laboratory of Alexander Kabanov in 2016. Ghazanfari’s research interests span a wide range of topics in theranostic platforms with a direct impact on cancer nanotechnology, including intelligent control of nano-bio interfaces to develop new nano-based therapies for prevention/treatment of cancer, innovation in multifunctional nanocomposite integration of nano-sized drug formulations, efficient stimuli and remotely actuated drug delivery systems.

Yu Mi, Ph.D.

Mi earned his PhD from the National University of Singapore, in the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in 2013. He also holds a BS from Tsinghua University. He joined the laboratory of Andrew Wang in 2015. Mi’s current research examines the use of nanoparticles to improve cancer immunotherapy.

Wantong Song, Ph.D.

Song earned his PhD in Polymer Chemistry at the Cahngchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2013. He also holds a BSc in Applied Chemistry from Nanjing University. He joined the Huang Lab in 2016 as a visiting scholar and is an Associate Professor in Key Laboratory of Polymer Ecomaterials at Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Song is now working on cancer immunotherapy with nanomedicine, under the guidance of Leaf Huang, Ph.D. His current research interests focus on immunotherapy for microsatellite-stable colorectal cancer.

NIH T32 Postdoctoral Alumni

Zach Rodgers, Ph.D.

Zach Rodgers, Ph.D. is originally from Ohio where he earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Youngstown State University studying C-H insertion chemistry on furanose platforms with Dr. Peter Norris. Rodgers later graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry under the guidance of David Lawrence, Ph.D. During this time, Rodgers worked on near infrared light mediated drug release for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.

During his training, Dr. Rodgers primary work focused on NPs coated with cancer cell and Mycobacteria membranes as vaccination scaffolds. He also developed, characterized, and screened the efficacy of cancer and BCG membrane coated NPs as melanoma vaccine platforms. In vivo pilot studies on the formulations show promise, and he has trained and will correspond with another postdoctoral researcher who will continue this promising research. They, we hope to fully optimize this NP vaccine system and publish within the next year.

Dr. Rodgers is now an Assistant Professor at Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA. He will run a research laboratory with a focus on developing photochemical methodologies and catalysts for use in biomaterial lithography and complex block co-polymer synthesis. The latter project will be dedicated to developing α-functionalized co-polymers for self-assembling nanoparticle systems with applications in drug delivery. The nanotechnology experience gained during the C-CNTP will aid him in accomplishing this research. He will also be developing a Polymer and Nanotechnology course for advanced chemistry students at the college.