School of Pharmacy PhD Students Shine at Nanotechnology Conferences

Executive Vice Dean Sarah Hamm-Alvarez with PhD students who received awared for cancer research

Executive Vice Dean Sarah Hamm-Alvarez congratulates PhD students Pu Shi and Martha Pastuszka for their exemplary work in cancer research.

Pu Shi received best poster and Martha Pastuszka won a best abstract award at their respective symposiums.

As nanotechnology becomes an increasingly integral part of medical advances, School of Pharmacy students remain on the cusp of these developments, evidenced by their recent winnings at two high-profile events.

PhD candidate Pu Shi received the best presentation award for his project, “RGD-Mediated Tumor-Targeted Rapamycin Delivery Using Protein Polymer Nanocarriers,” at the UCLA-USC-Caltech Nanotechnology & Nanomedicine Symposium, held October 18 at UCLA. The symposium brought together three of Los Angeles’s major campuses to discuss advances in nanoscience, as well as possibilities for future progress in the field.

Shi, who works in the lab of Assistant Professor J. Andrew MacKay, earned the top award out of 37 entries at the symposium.

“The aim of our project is to develop a novel drug nanocarrier, Rapamycin, for human breast tumor treatment,” explains Shi. “The new Rapamycin formulation significantly prolongs drug release, lowers cytotoxicity, and improves anti-tumor efficacy in vivo.”

Martha Pastuszka, also a PhD candidate in MacKay’s lab, received a best abstract award for her project, “Thermally Responsive Intracellular Switch,” at the 11th annual Nanomedicine and Drug Delivery Symposium, held October 25-27 in San Diego. She was one of only five to receive this honor out of 80 participants.

Approximately 200 of the top nano-scientists in the world came together with innovative young students for the USC School of Pharmacy and UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences-sponsored event, which was co-organized by MacKay.

“My poster describes how we can control what a cell does or does not do,” says Pastuszka. “Being able to do this at our own will helps us understand why a cell acts abnormally in diseases such as cancer. My poster described the first experiments to test out this new technology.”

These two wins signify all the exciting work the School of Pharmacy is doing in this growing and cutting-edge area of pharmaceutical development.

“It is gratifying to see Martha and Pu gain recognition at focused international meetings in our field,” says their mentor, MacKay. “At both conferences, I received a number of very positive comments regarding the high quality of their contributions. It has been very exciting to watch them, and all of my group members, mature into seasoned scientists.”