Engineering novel nanoplatform for oral vaccine delivery

 Supervisor Professor Zhi Ping (Gordon) Xu & Dr Li Li

Vaccination has been an effective way to protect and control the infectious diseases for human and animals. In recent years, peptides and proteins have been used as antigens against infectious diseases and attracted much attention due to their excellent selectivity and efficiency. However, they are mainly administered parenterally (intramuscularly or subcutaneously), causing stress and cross-infections with low patient compliance and intensive work/training. Oral vaccination holds a promising way to enhance immune response by producing systemic and mucosal immune responses.  Its convenience, minimal pain, simplicity, and non-invasive nature further improve the patient compliance and reduce side effects and cross-infections. However, the oral vaccination efficiency is relatively poor. Thus, this project is to develop effective nano-formulations encapsulated with antigens for oral vaccine delivery using nano-engineering approach.

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Development of thermo-responsive hydrogels for mucosal microbicide delivery to prevent HIV transmission

 Supervisor Professor Zhi Ping (Gordon) Xu & Dr Li Li

Prevention strategies play a key role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Vaginal and rectal microbicides hold great promise in tackling sexual transmission of HIV-1. However, the reduction in overall HIV incidence is only modest, ranging from 27% using the ring to 39% using the gel. Failure to completely prevent viral transmission is attributed to the diffusion barriers of the vaginal mucosal layer and potential degradation of the drug in the vaginal lumen due to low pH (4-5) and enzymes. New vaginal formulations are needed to improve the effectiveness of microbicides for HIV prevention. This project aims to develop thermo-responsive hydrogels to carry microbicides for mucosal delivery. The thermo-responsive microbicide hydrogel is expected to sustainably release microbicide and adhere to the mucosal layer to significantly reduce HIV transmission. This project will involve in synthesis and characterisation of innovative thermo-responsive hydrogels, drug loading and release test, and in vitro cell experiments.

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Fluorescence bioassay and imaging of intracellular redox biomolecules using responsive nanoprobe

 Supervisor Professor Zhi Ping (Gordon) Xu & Dr Run Zhang

The development of reliable bioanalytical probes for selective and sensitive detection of redox biomolecules in living organisms is essential for better understanding of the roles of these biomolecules in their native contexts. In the last two decades, a number of fluorescence biosensors have been successfully developed for biomolecule detection and imaging, while quantitative detection and monitoring of the levels of redox biomolecules in vitro and in vivo remain a challenge due to the extremely high reactivity of these biomolecules. In this project, novel nanoprobes will be developed and the capability of these nanoprobes for bioassay and imaging of intracellular redox biomolecules will be validated. The validated nanoprobes are then expected to be used for future biomedical research of inflammation disease monitoring.

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Biopolymer nanocarriers for eco-sustainable crop protection

 Supervisor Professor Zhi Ping (Gordon) Xu & Dr Peng Li

Biomolecular agrochemicals are regarded as the substitutes of the conventional synthetic agrochemicals to protect the crops against pathogens and pests without damage to the ecosystem. Topical application of biomolecules is emerging as an efficient mean of sustainable and low-cost crop protection. However, a major limitation in the practical application is a short protection window. To actualise its application, suitable nanocarriers are necessary to maintain the bioactivity of the biomolecules before they reach the target sites. Biopolymers have desirable properties and can be adopted as the candidates of nanocarriers to cope with the varying conditions in the delivery paths of biomolecules. Building on our experience of the world’s first BioclayTM platform, we are expanding our range of materials option to include various biopolymers into our scope. This project aims to evaluate the preparation parameters and achieve industrializable biopolymer formulations for optimal topical delivery of biomolecules for crop protection.

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Development of a novel nano-emulsion platform for natural plant extracts delivery

 Supervisor Dr Li Li

Food safety and quality are major challenges for the poultry industry as food-borne pathogens. Natural plant extracts with excellent anti-oxidative and antimicrobial activity from by-products in the food industry can effectively control food-borne pathogens. However, their performance in the animal feed for pathogen control is limited due to their degradation and high volatility. Thus, this project aims to develop a high-value natural nanoadditive with improved bioavailability using nanotechnology for management of pathogenic bacteria. This unique natural nanoadditive will support better practice nutrition management for chickens and provide high-quality chicken meat. The bioavailability of natural plant extract formulation will be evaluated and optimised. The efficacy of cellular delivery will be investigated. This project involves synthesis and characterization of a conjugated nanoemulsion platform. The students are expected to master various preparation methods and characterization techniques and cell analysis techniques. It has capacity to grow into an PhD project and has a publication potential. This project is suitable for the students with Chemistry, Science, Biomedical Science, Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry and Biotechnology.
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