Development of biologics and bio-conjugation strategies for generating hybrid bio-nanomaterials for application in diagnostics, imaging and drug delivery

​Targeted nanomedicines have revolutionised therapeutic strategies, offering new approaches for diagnosing and treating diseases, however their application in nanomedicine is often limited due to complexities associated with protein conjugations to synthetic nanocarriers. Current strategies for attaching targeting ligands to nanomaterials are complex and often inefficient and ligand density can be difficult to control. My research focuses on the design, engineering and analysis of biologicals such as antibodies for the development of novel hybrid bio-nanomaterials for application in diagnostics, imaging and drug delivery. I am particularly interested in the development of a facile method to generate actively targeted nanomaterials using polyethylene glycol (PEG)-functional nanostructures coupled to a bispecific antibody (BsAb) that exhibits dual specificity for methoxy PEG (mPEG) epitopes and cancer targets such as Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR).

Dr Chris Howard is a joint appointment research fellow at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology and the Centre for Advanced Imaging, UQ. He is a chief investigator within the ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Biopharmaceutical Innovation and a leader on projects involving industrial partners including CSL and GE. Dr Howard is also an inventor of a patented platform technology for generating targeted nanomedicines using bispecific antibodies and a CI on an NHMRC project grant focused on this technology. Dr Howard is also a collaborator within the ARC Centre of Excellence, and recieved the Centre of Excellence "Best Publication of 2016" award for this work on bispecific antibody targeted nanomaterials. Prior to working at the University of Queensland, he was a researcher at the University of Cambridge, focusing on the cell receptors involved in the innate immune response and inflammation. He has also worked for the biopharmaceutical company CBio Ltd, making biologics for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. His current interest focuses on the design, engineering and analysis of biologicals such as antibodies for the development of novel hybrid bio-nanomaterials. He is particularly interested in the development of multi-specific nanomaterials using bispecific antibodies for application in diagnostics, imaging and drug delivery.

Industry Engagement

  • ​CSL and GE as part of the ARC ITTC
  • Current international collaboration with Samyang
  • National collaborations as part of ARC Linkage Grants with InterK
  • Research collaboration with Minomic Inc


Dr Howard has many collaborations in academic and industry settings focused on nanomaterial targeting with antibodies. There are several projects at the AIBN and CAI which utilise my expertise in antibody targeting. This includes work on hyperbranched polymers with Associate Professor Kris Thurecht from the AIBN/ Centre for Advanced Imaging, work which has resulted in successful publications, grants and a patent on the PEG BsAb technology. Dr Howard also works with Prof Gordon Xu on calcium nanoparticle targeting, Dr Frank Sainsbury on tailored nanoemulsions and Matt Traus research group focused on the development of yeast display and bispecific methods for diagnostics. He also collaborates with Prof Justin Cooper-White on the development of biologics for scaffold engineering and development of microfluidic technology for culturing and productivity testing of CHO cells. The BsAb technology that I developed also has multiple collaborators within the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology.


ARC Training Centre for Biopharmaceutical Innovation: (2017–2020) ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centres

Immuno-polymeric drugs for prostate cancer therapy: (2016–2018) NHMRC Project Grant

EGFR targeted nanoparticle feasibility study: (2016–2017) Samyang Biopharmaceuticals Corporation

Provision of research services to Minomic International Ltd (2017) Minomic International Ltd

Key Publications

  1. Howard CB, Fletcher N, Houston ZH, Fuchs AV, Boase NR, Simpson JD, Raftery LJ, Ruder T, Jones ML, de Bakker CJ, Mahler SM, Thurecht KJ (2016) Overcoming Instability of Antibody-Nanomaterial Conjugates: Next Generation Targeted Nanomedicines Using Bispecific Antibodies. Advanced Healthcare Materials 5 (16): 2055-68.(IF 5.76)
  2. Patent: Howard CB, Mahler SM and Thurecht KJ (2016). Targeting constructs for delivery of payloads. International Patent Application Number: PCT/AU2016/050069
  3. Raftery LJ, Grewal YS, Howard CB, Jones ML, Shiddiky MJ, Carrascosa LG, Thurecht KJ, Mahler SM, Trau M (2016) Biosensing made easy with PEG-targeted bi-specific antibodies. Chemical communications (Cambridge, England) 52 (33): 5730-3. (IF 6.56) (Citations 3).
  4. Alsultan AM, Chin DY, Howard CB, de Bakker CJ, Jones ML, Mahler SM (2016) Beyond Antibodies: Development of a Novel Protein Scaffold Based on Human Chaperonin 10. Scientific Reports 5: 37348. (IF 5.47)
  5. Jones ML, Alfaleh MA, Kumble S, Zhang S, Osborne GW, Yeh M, Arora N, Hou JJ, Howard CB, Chin DY, Mahler SM (2016) Targeting membrane proteins for antibody discovery using phage display. Scientific reports 6: 26240. (IF 5.47) (Citations 1)