2018 Selby Research Awards

  • The Selby Research Awards are granted annually by both the The University of Melbourne and The University of Sydney. The award is to assist an outstanding academic establish his or her research career. The Foundation congratulates:

    img Graeme Selby, Chairman of the Selby Scientific Foundation
  • Dr Yu Heng Lau

    School of Chemistry
    University of Sydney
    Awarded on 07/09/2018

    Project:- Light-triggered protein cage disassembly for targeted drug delivery

    There is immense industrial and academic interest in developing targeted therapies to increase the efficacy and reduce the side effects of existing medicines. Many currently used cancer therapies are not targeted, and work simply by blocking essential cellular functions. This primarily affects faster growing cells like tumours, but also causes some healthy cells to die, leading to side effects. Cancer therapeutics that can be specifically targeted to cancer cells are therefore highly sought after. A popular strategy for creating targeted therapeutics is through the use of antibodies, which can recognise unique features on the outer surface of cancer cells. Targeting is achieved by chemically attaching antibodies to drug molecules (antibody-drug conjugates). In this approach, the drug molecule may still have off-target activity as it remains exposed throughout, and may be liberated from the antibody in an uncontrolled manner during circulation.

    In this project, we aim to develop a targeted drug delivery platform, based on engineered protein cages that release their molecular payload upon irradiation with light. This project builds on exciting recent advances we have made on protein nanocages called encapsulins. These recently discovered proteins are able to self-assemble into 20-45 nm hollow containers that house any molecule of interest. We will engineer these cages with antibodies on their exterior surface, while housing drug molecules within their interior cavity. These molecules remain hidden until irradiation, upon which the active component is released, with the aim of achieving more specific drug targeting with fewer side effects.

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    img Dr Yu Heng Lau.gif
  • Dr Georgina Such

    School of Chemistry
    University of Melbourne
    Awarded on 29/11/2018

    Project Title: Degradable Radical Polymers: Synthesis, Assembly and Characterisation.

     

    Summary of research proposal:(plain English statement) 

    Living radical polymerisation techniques allow the simple and versatile synthesis of polymers with controlled molecular weight, end functionality and architecture. These engineered materials have potential to make significant impact in the field of biomedicine but they are limited by not being biodegradable. This project will involve the synthesis of monomers with customised cleavable moieties allowing their fragmentation in specific regions of the body. These monomers will be incorporated into a library of biologically relevant polymers and their behavior optimised for specific and efficient degradation. 

    Impact Statement:  Many therapeutics cannot be delivered effectively in isolation due to high toxicity or susceptibility to degradation, thus there is a need to develop new delivery strategies. Carriers based on chain growth polymers have generated interest to solve these challenges, however, they are limited by the lack of biodegradability. This project will involve the synthesis of new polymers that can combine targeted therapeutic delivery without the limitations of long-term polymer exposure.

    The project will develop a large library of materials that have smart degradation and release capabilities, these materials will have application in a range of areas and thus will aid in the development of new advanced industries as well as adding a competitive edge to existing Australian industry. The use of polymers and polymer-based nanoparticles for biomedical applications has generated significant research interest worldwide due to its potential for improving therapeutic outcomes for a range of diseases. However, to maximise the opportunities in this space radical polymers are limited by their lack of tunable biological response. 

    This project offers the potential to revolutionisethe use of radical polymers for biomedicine by making materials capable of tunable, multi-stage and targeteddegradation.

     

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    img Dr Georgina Such & Graeme Selby
  • Dr Shelley Wickham

    School of Chemistry
    University of Sydney
    Awarded on 07/09/2018

    External control of switchable DNA nanomachines

    DNA is the molecule that encodes the genetic information of living organisms. It also has huge potential as a programmable building material for biocompatible nanostructures. In this work we use DNA as a molecular building block for self-assembling nanoscale structures and machines. With DNA we can make nanoscale tools – tweezers, spanners, wrenches and springs – and use them to understand cells and proteins. These DNA nanomachines also have applications for in vitro diagnosis, and as templates for fabrication of nano-electronic circuits and plasmonic devices.

    In the proposed project, we are using DNA to build sophisticated ‘nanorobots’, which can selectively deliver drugs in the body. For example, to delivery chemotherapy agents only to cancer cells, without affecting healthy tissue, reducing side effects and increasing efficacy. Currently, DNA nanorobot drug delivery vehicles are able to sense their local chemical environment, and open in response to specific cell markers. However, we are unable to control or direct them from outside the body. In this project we are developing methods for using electric and magnetic fields to externally control DNA nanomachines. This will have a profound impact on our ability to control robotic devices on the nanoscale. More long-term, we aim to develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic nanomachines that could be used in the body – radiowaves and microwaves can penetrate deeply into the body, and some frequencies are already approved for therapeutic uses.

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    img Dr Shelley Wickham