Feng wins campus funding for work on drug delivery optimization with nanoparticles
Assistant Professor Jie Feng arrived at Illinois in spring of 2019 and already his work in bioavailability enhancement of drugs with nanoparticle-oriented engineering is catching campus-wide attention, earning him a Research Support Award from the Campus Research Board.
Oral ingestion is the most common type of drug delivery, but when drugs have low solubility they don’t dissolve well and need multiple doses to achieve full effect. This low bioavailability of drugs makes many treatments significantly less efficient and makes it more difficult for the patient to recover.
Feng is working on developing a process to enhance the bioavailability of hydrophobic drugs using nanoprecipitation and salt flocculation. Through this processing, a drug is encapsulated in nanoparticles, its bioavailability increases, and through the flocculation the drug transitions into a solid form. Feng aims to make the production of nanomedicines more efficient for controlled release, as well as reduce the number of pills necessary to ensure a full dosage, targeting the infectious diseases prevalent in developing countries where medicine is not always easily obtained. Nanoparticle engineering could significantly increase the solubility of drugs and enhance their absorption. To this end, Feng developed a novel micromixer for production of nanoparticles through flash nanoprecipitation, which stabilizes insoluble compounds through rapid mixing, often finishing with a drying process that leaves molecules encapsulated in nanoparticles with a surface coating.
The mixing process involves using turbulent dynamics to control the multi-phase mixing, and Feng has already designed mixers that allow the final output to be scalable. Because of his scalable technique, he is able to ensure a homogeneous mixture every time, whether the scale of output is in milligrams or kilograms. The combination with salt flocculation will achieve easy recovery of the nanoparticles from a liquid suspension into a solid powder, for a longer shelf life and sustained release.
His research will help to promote the understanding of nanoengineering principles within the enhancement of bioavailability of hydrophobic drugs and could lead to much easier treatment of ailments across the board. This aim aligns well with the Carle Illinois College of Medicine’s themes around translational sciences and medical engineering, and Feng expects further collaboration with the college to understand how these nanomedicines behave in real biological systems.
Research Support Awards are given by the Campus Research Board to full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members to support their work and lead to more external contributions. The award will assist Feng in furthering his progress on this important work.