Engineering Better Medical Therapies Through Biology

New ChE Professor Debra Auguste is studying human biology to develop better medical therapies and drug delivery methods.

Source: News @ Northeastern

There is nothing homoge­nous about the human body, says new chem­ical engi­neering pro­fessor Debra Auguste. That’s why her research into cre­ating bio­ma­te­rials that improve med­ical ther­a­pies and drug delivery methods for ill­nesses such as breast cancer is focused on exploring human biology at the mol­e­c­ular level.

We try to under­stand what is hap­pening on the bio­log­ical level so we can use that infor­ma­tion to engi­neer better ther­a­peu­tics,” noted Auguste, who earned her doc­toral degree in chem­ical engi­neering from Princeton University.

In 2009, she was named one of the 50 most influ­en­tial African-‚Äč‚ÄčAmericans in technology.

She comes to North­eastern from City Col­lege of New York and plans to begin teaching grad­uate courses in drug delivery or ana­lyt­ical chem­istry next year. “I’m excited to pursue the oppor­tu­ni­ties here,” Auguste said. “I have a lot of friends here and there are a lot of people here whose work I’ve known about since I was in grad­uate school.”

A strong focus of Auguste’s research is focused on breast cancer, and finding ways to pro­mote cancer cells’ binding ability in order to ensure chemother­a­peu­tics are directed right to the tumor. She also has an interest in con­necting ther­a­pies to cir­cu­lating tumor cells in order to stop metastasis.

In addi­tion, her work cre­ating neonatal tra­cheas is a great example, Auguste says, of how in some cases sci­en­tists must create a bio­ma­te­rial to per­form con­tra­dic­tory func­tions. “At the same time that your tra­chea has to be open so you can breathe, part of it also has to be able to fold in so you can cough and expel your mucus. And it also has to be able to stretch with your diaphragm,” she said. Gen­er­ating mate­rials that are stiff yet elas­tomeric is a fun­da­mental problem. The Auguste lab is inter­ested in how to mimic mechan­ical prop­er­ties found in native tissues.

Now that she is at North­eastern, Auguste is excited to work with the cohort of researchers focused on nan­otech­nology and create inter­dis­ci­pli­nary part­ner­ships with col­leagues in the School of Pharmacy.

They can pro­vide a unique per­spec­tive into how to get from the bench to the clinic,” Auguste said.

Related Faculty: Debra Auguste

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering