Pham is in her fifth year of doctoral studies, following undergraduate studies in chemical engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. She has been developing nanoparticle formulations to target drug delivery and sustain drug release. She adapted the therapeutic molecule to a number of prodrugs to manipulate their degradation kinetics and pharmacokinetics. Because the drug accumulates at the disease sites, the dose can be significantly reduced, thus also reducing toxicity and side effects.
“The X-ray techniques at ChemMatCARS really help to systematically understand how the prodrug molecules interact with phospholipids and the enzymes that sequentially degrade the prodrug to generate the active form of the drug,” Pham said.
Pham has been exploring the polymer-lipid hybrid drug delivery systems, for which the range of permutations is daunting. That’s why the fundamental insights gained at NSF’s ChemMatCARS are critical. Liu explained, “ Nanostructures can be judiciously designed and optimized based on the fundamental understandings of molecular packing, interaction, and degradation, instead of empirical trials, which are almost impossible for these systems because of the variety of choices of material and parameters.”
Pham also appreciates the opportunity to start from fundamentals. Although she had used the beamline before, “I was never systematically trained to understand the models, the setup and how to change it, and how to optimize it. This program really filled up a lot of holes in my knowledge,” Pham said. “This is really critical for us. Without a deep understanding of all the aspects of this technique, we wouldn’t know how to push the limits into new studies,” she added.
* The interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.