Robert K. Prud’homme, Ph.D., renowned chemical engineer and researcher from Princeton University, presented the eighth Henry A. McGee Lecture at the VCU School of Engineering this month. Named for Henry A. McGee, Ph.D., founding dean of the VCU School of Engineering, the lecture series is a signature event of the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering. McGee was in attendance to help welcome the audience of students, faculty members and friends of the School.
Prud’homme presented his research in nanoscale processing for difficult-to-deliver drug therapies. He is the inventor of a technique called Flash NanoPrecipitation, which encapsulates therapeutic and diagnostic materials in nanoparticles to improve treatment and monitoring of diseases including cancer and tuberculosis. Prud’homme discussed how his research group’s Flash NanoPrecipitation platform addresses challenges associated with drug compounds that, while therapeutically viable, are ineffective in the body because they cannot be absorbed. He also outlined how Flash NanoPrecipitation enhances targeting of pharmaceutical, therapeutic and diagnostic agents. The lecture concluded with a look at how this platform supports protected delivery and sustained release of drugs. Prud’homme said that it is also compatible with continuous processing of pharmaceuticals, a focus of researchers in VCU’s pharmaceutical engineering initiative.
Christina Tang, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemical engineering, was a post-doctoral researcher in Prud’homme’s lab at Princeton before she came to VCU. Tang said that presentations such as this are vital to showing students the application side of the discipline. “It connects what they are doing in class with the ability to impact human health,” Tang said. “In the classroom, we delve into the details, but talks like this generate enthusiasm for the ‘why’ behind those details.”
Undergraduate and graduate students agreed. Raven Smith, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, is using the Flash NanoPrecipitation process in her own research. Smith, who plans to continue researching in the area and hopes to publish, was eager to have the chance to speak to Prud’homme. Oscar Bastidas, a doctoral chemical engineering student working on drug design and discovery, valued the opportunity to learn from a drug delivery expert. “Drug designers make the molecule, but also have to examine how it will function in the biological environment,” he said. “Take bleach, for example — it will kill HIV, but it’s not a ‘drug.’ Medicine is not just a molecule; it has to be something that can also get to the target.”