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BE Seminar: Living Therapeutic Materials – Hydrogel encapsulated bacteria for smart drug delivery
January 31 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Speaker: Dr. Shrikrishnan Sankaran
Title: Living Therapeutic Materials – Hydrogel encapsulated bacteria for smart drug delivery
Abstract: Living therapeutics is a rapidly growing field in which live microorganisms are engineered to produce and deliver drugs right within the body. A unique advantage of this approach is that the organisms can be programmed with smart functions to sense and process disease-associated stimuli from the patient and regulate the drugs they produce. Probiotic or host-friendly bacteria engineered to sense patients’ needs and deliver drugs in response are showing early promise in treating chronic diseases but two major challenges are slowing progress of this approach – (i) scarcity of genetic tools to program sensing functions in most medically relevant probiotics like lactobacilli & (ii) unpredictability of drug doses due to variable bacterial survival in the body. In this presentation, I will share my group’s multi-disciplinary approach to overcome these challenges by (i) expanding the poorly equipped genetic toolbox of probiotic lactobacilli with new gene regulatory and plasmid retention modules. and (ii) encapsulating the bacteria in mechanically tunable hydrogels that can controllably sustain bacterial activity[2,3]. The engineered bacteria combined with hydrogels form living therapeutic materials, in which control over bacterial functions can be exerted through both genetic and mechanical means. Novel fundamental insights and application-oriented advances from our published and ongoing work will be presented.
About the Speaker: Dr. Shrikrishnan Sankaran is the head of the Bio programmable Materials research group, he combines bacterial engineering with biomaterials to develop engineered living materials for therapeutic and environmental applications. His group genetically programs beneficial bacteria with sensing, catalytic and therapeutic functions. These bacteria are encapsulated in soft materials like hydrogels to create living devices that perform these advanced functions long-term at low-costs and in an eco-friendly manner. Currently, a major focus of the group is expanding the genetic toolkit of non-model probiotic and commensal bacteria to achieve in situ controllable drug delivery.