Nanomedicine: development of multimodal molecular imaging probes for theranostics

Treatment of cancer has advanced considerably over the past decade aided by the development of more responsive and adaptable drug delivery techniques, as well as vast improvement in the technology for detection and diagnosis. The development of highly versatile and functionalisable nanoscaffolds has allowed the once separate fields of therapy and diagnostics to merge into the new multimodal field of theranostics. Hyperbranched polymers (HBPs) are multi-armed nanocarriers that allow for the attachment of a variety of therapeutic and imaging functionalities. In the pursuit of preparation of “smart” theranostic HBPs I am investigating the following:

  • Diversity of heterobifunctional short-chained poly(ethylene glycol) linkers for permanent and biologically responsive cleavable imaging and therapeutic moieties.
  • Targeted HBPs for delivery of radiotherapeutics.
  • Responsive HBPs for selective delivery of chemotherapeutics.
  • Switchable HBPs for quantifiable detection of delivered chemotherapeutic dose.

​Zach obtained his PhD in Chemistry from the International Institute for Nano and Molecular Medicine at the University of Missouri in 2014 under the supervision of Professor M. Frederick Hawthorne. He joined the Centre for Advanced Imaging and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Associate Professor Kristofer Thurecht's lab in 2014, and has applied his expertise in organic chemistry and synthetic design to develop novel nanomaterials towards the assessment and treatment of disease states using molecular imaging. Through the combination of bioorthogonal and responsive systems with a range of multimodal in vivo imaging techniques, Zach's main research aims have been focused on understanding how nanomaterials interact with biological environments and how that information can be used to enhance the efficiency of those nanomaterials. Zach is also heavily involved with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology (CBNS), and is the Senior ECR Leader in the CBNS "Challenges of in vivo targeting" significant research project, a founder of the annual CBNS Animal Imaging Workshop, and a founding member of the CBNS Educational Committee.

Industry Engagement

​Minomic, InterK


​Non-invasive imaging of nanotheranostic efficiency for the treatment of gliobalstoma - Dr. Jens Bunt and Professor Linda Richards, Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland

Immersive 3D virtual reality of real-time nanomedicine tracking - Associate Professor John McGhee, University of New South Wales

Key Publications

  1. Overcoming instability of antibody nanomaterial conjugates: next generation targeted nanomedicines using bispecific antibodies. Christopher B. Howard, Nicholas Fletcher, Zachary H. Houston, Adrian V. Fuchs, Nathan R. B. Boase, Joshua D. Simpson, Lyndon J. Raferty, Tim Ruder, Martina L. Jones, Christopher J. de Bakker, Stephen M. Mahler, and Kristofer J. Thurecht. Adv. Healthcare Mater., 2016. 
  2. Evaluation of the in vivo fate of ultrapure alginate in mice model. Anitha A., Nicholas Fletcher, Zachary Houston, Kristofer Thurecht, Lisbeth Grondahl. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 2016.
  3. Efficient synthesis of diverse heterobifunctionalized clickable oligo(ethylene glycol) linkers: potential applications in bioconjugation and targeted drug delivery. Lalit N. Goswami, Zachary H. Houston, Saurav J. Sarma, Satish S. Jalisatgi and M. Frederick Hawthorne. Org. Biomol. Chem., 2013, 11, pp 11161126.
  4. Synthesis of VertexDifferentiated Icosahedral closoBoranes: Polyfunctional Scaffolds for Targeted Drug Delivery. Lalit N. Goswami, Zachary H. Houston, Saurav J. Sarma, Hairong Li, Satish S. Jalisatgi and M. Frederick Hawthorne. J. Org. Chem., 2012, 77 (24), pp 1133311338.