Pharmacy Researcher Receives Prestigious NIH MIRA Grant


Yizhou Dong, PhD, an assistant professor of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the College of Pharmacy, has been awarded the esteemed Maximizing Investigators' Research Award (MIRA) by National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIGMS). The award serves to support all research in an investigator's laboratory that falls within the mission of NIGMS, stabilizing funding that could enhance the ability to take on ambitious scientific projects and approach problems more creatively. Dong’s five-year grant of $1.89 million will be used to study cell-specific and multifunctional drug formulation for in vivo delivery.

Cell-specific delivery in vivo is one of the most challenging issues in the field of drug delivery. Dong’s project seeks to develop cell-specific drug delivery systems; construct multifunctional drug delivery systems; and demonstrate therapeutic efficacy of these systems.

The research has important public health implications, said Dong. “Our research program is devoted to drug delivery systems for the treatment of genetic disorders, infectious diseases, as well as cancers. We will integrate our specialty in pharmaceutics, pharmaceutical chemistry, biomedical engineering, materials formulation and animal studies to design and validate new drug delivery systems.”

Previous studies have identified a number of overexpressed tumor receptors, though the understanding of them is limited. Dong’s team aims to specifically target tumor cells and evaluate tumor specificity with imaging probes. In order to develop multifunctional delivery systems, the group will integrate ligands used in previous studies with various delivery systems. “The goal is to translate our scientific results and technological inventions into more effective drug delivery systems,” he said.

Through MIRA, NIGMS aims to widely distribute funding among the nation’s highly talented and promising investigators to increase overall scientific productivity and the chances for important breakthroughs. It reduces time spent by writing and reviewing grant applications, allowing more time for research.   

 “I am so honored to be given this opportunity from NIGMS,” said Dong. “This grant gives our lab freedom to tackle our research in a comprehensive way, without typical constraints. I am grateful to NIH for allowing me to pursue this important work.”