Joseph DeSimone

Joseph DeSimone

Chancellor's Eminent Professor of Chemistry
Not Accepting Doctoral Students

   Caudill Laboratories 257
  Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

Nanomedicine, Medical Devices, Green Chemistry

Research Synopsis

The recent breakthroughs in the DeSimone laboratories using specifically-designed materials for imprint or soft lithography have enabled an extremely versatile and flexible method for the direct fabrication and harvesting of monodisperse, shape-specific nano-biomaterials. The method, referred to as Particle Replication In Non-wetting Templates, or PRINT, allows for the fabrication of monodisperse particles with simultaneous control over structure, such as shape, size, and composition, and function, such as cargo, and surface structure.

Unlike other particle fabrication techniques, PRINT is delicate and general enough to be compatible with a variety of important next-generation cancer therapeutic, detection and imaging agents, including various cargos, for example, DNA, proteins, chemotherapy drugs, biosensor dyes, radio-markers, and contrast agents, targeting ligands, for example, antibodies, and cell targeting peptides, and functional matrix materials, for example, bioabsorbable polymers, stimuli responsive matrices, et cetera.

In conjunction with the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, the DeSimone group is focused on designing and evaluating novel nanomedicines for cancer therapy. PRINT nanoparticles can be fabricated into numerous shapes and sizes including nano-cylinders, nano-rods or long filamentous "worm-like" nanoparticles. The unique control over size and shape leads to a variety of nano-materials that can accumulate in specific tissues or diseased sites.

Moreover, once the nanoparticle reaches the desired tissue it can be engineered to release a therapeutic at a specific rate and dosage. Techniques that increase the in vivo circulation, and therefore enhance the delivery of a nanoparticle to a tumor are being explored. For example, the surface of a PRINT nanoparticle can be decorated with "stealth" units, which are known to evade routes of elimination. Additionally, by changing the chemical make-up of the nanoparticle, the group can generate an extremely soft and deformable material capable of passing through small pores that exist in tissues like the liver and spleen.

The ability to simultaneously change the size, shape, surface properties and chemical composition of a nanoparticle is unique to the PRINT process. The manipulation of these physical properties can increase the therapeutic index of a drug, reduce side effects and improve patient compliance.

The DeSimone lab is also investigating various routes of administration for PRINT particles. Improved drug delivery to the lung through inhalation represents a promising opportunity for the treatment of many pulmonary and systemic diseases. Through control of particle size, shape and composition, PRINT aerosols offer improved dose uniformity of excipient-free aerosols. With this platform, the DeSimone group is exploring the effect of particle shape on powder entrainment and airway deposition, as well as opportunities for the targeting or de-targeting of airway macrophages.

PRINT particles are being pursued to co-deliver antigens and adjuvants as highly effective particulate vaccines for cancer immunotherapy and treatment of infectious diseases. Micro- and nano-sized particles have shown great promise in vaccine development both as carriers and as particulate adjuvants. PRINT particles with biocompatible materials are designed to efficiently adsorb or incorporate antigens, proteins, peptides, or nucleic acids, and various adjuvants, for example, TLR ligands. Furthermore, tailoring the surface chemistry, size and shape of PRINT particles may greatly help in the targeting of lymphatic systems to achieve desired immune responses in a cost-effective way.

For over a generation, researchers have utilized suspensions of monodisperse colloids as model systems to address questions concerning the assembly and structure of materials. Suspensions comprised of spherical colloids have long been the system of choice in large part because, until recently, the sphere was one of the few shapes that could be synthesized as monodisperse in large quantities. The recent vision that anisotropically shaped colloids may lead to an entirely new class of materials has caused a paradigm shift in the field.

The advent of PRINT places the DeSimone group at the forefront of the colloidal assembly community with the unique ability to synthesize monodisperse colloids with unparalleled control over their shape, size and composition. The DeSimone group is currently using PRINT particles and leveraging fundamental interactions such as depletion, hydrophilic-hydrophobic, et cetera, to study new physics, create functional materials and produce new colloidal building blocks en route to next-generation materials.

Professional Background

The National Medal of Technology and Innovation, 2015; Inaugural Kabiller Prize, 2015; Dickson Prize, 2014; Member of the Institute of Medicine, 2014; Member of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; Member of the National Academy of Engineering, 2005; Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2005; Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS, 2006; Industrial Research Institute Medal, 2014; Fellow, National Academy of Inventors, 2013; ACS Fellow,2012; Walston Chubb Award for Innovation from Sigma Xi, 2012; Mendel Medal from Villanova University, 2011; Harrison Howe Award by the Rochester Section of the American Chemical Society, 2011; PMSE Fellow, Division of Polymeric Material Science and Engineering, American Chemical Society, 2011; Founding POLY Fellow, Division of Polymer Chemistry, American Chemical Society, 2010; AAAS Mentor Award, honoring DeSimone's dedication to advancing diversity in the chemistry PhD workforce, 2010; NIH Director's Pioneer Award, 2009; North Carolina Award, 2009; Distinguished Graduate Alumni Achievement Award, Virginia Tech, 2009; Tar Heel of the Year, 2009; Lemelson-MIT Prize, 2008; Raleigh News & Observer Tar Heel of the Year, 2008; Named one of the "One Hundred Engineers of the Modern Era" by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, AIChE, marking the 100th Anniversary of the AIChE, 2008; Business Leader Magazine Impact Entrepreneur of the Year for the Triangle," 2008; Order of the Golden Fleece, 2008; Collaboration Success Award from The Council for Chemical Research, 2007; College of Fellows, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, 2006; H.F. Whalen, Jr. Award for Entrepreneurship by ACS Div. of Business Development & Management, 2006; Entrepreneurial Excellence Award for Life Science Spin-out of the Year for Liquidia Technologies, 2005; American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention, 2005; John Scott Award, 2002; Engineering Excellence Award by DuPont, 2002; Wallace H. Carothers Award from the Delaware Section of the American Chemical Society, 2002; Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Technology, 2001; Inventor of the Year Award from the Triangle Intellectual Property Law Association, 2001; Governor's Entrepreneurial Company of the Year Award for Micell Technologies, 2001; Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest, 2001; Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, 2001; Oliver Max Garner Award, 2000; Phi Beta Kappa, Tau of Pennsylvania Chapter at Ursinus College, 2000; Fresenius Award, 1999; Carl S. Marvel Creative Polymer Chemistry Award, 1999; Tarheel of the Year Award, Runner-Up; Honorary Doctorate of Science from Ursinus College, 1999; Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, 1998-2001; R&D 100 Award with Micell Technologies, 1998; Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, 1997; Governor's Award for Excellence, 1997; Chancellor's Award for Excellence, 1997; Waldo Semon Award Lecturer, The University of Akron, 1995; Charles H. Stone Award, 1995; Finalist for the Discover Award for Technical Innovation, 1995; Presidential Faculty Fellow Award from the National Science Foundation, 1993; Philip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement, 1993; National Science Foundation Young Investigator - Division of Materials Research, 1992

News & Publications

Chemistry and Adidas

Chemistry Professor Joe DeSimone is currently on leave from UNC to act as CEO of Carbon, the...