Laboratory for Materials in Medicine Pan Research Group at Illinois
Bioengineering at Illinois Engineering for Life University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


In silico to in vivo: The overarching goal of our research is develop translatable ‘nanomedicine’ through interdisciplinary work in synthetic chemistry, biology, imaging science and medicine. We believe in simplicity and in taking inspiration from Mother Nature. Our interest spans from basic drug discovery to early detection of a disease and systemic delivery of a drug.

Our model based drug discovery and development work relies on the computational studies (Sybyl, Schrodinger and other molecular modelling experiments) to identify novel small molecule-based drugs or improving clinically approved agents for better efficacy and safety. We are interested to develop novel therapies targeting cancer stem like cell (CSCs) signaling pathways. The goal is to develop novel treatment strategy that specifically targets cancer stem cells. When combined with current treatments, this strategy may lead to a more complete and durable regression of malignant cancers and prevent metastasis. We are interested to apply external stimuli in the form of light, temperature, ultrasound etc. to activate these therapies. For cardiovascular therapies, we are developing next generation drug eluting stents from novel “soft” materials.


Research Flow Chart

A synthetic chemistry approach is used to design and develop novel prodrugs and “theranostic” molecular architectures for molecular imaging, drug delivery and nonviral gene delivery applications towards early detection of diagnosis and therapy of a disease. Our current research also revolves around new chemistry and technological applications of nanostructured materials (tunable between 7-200 nm) with adjustable physiochemical and biological characteristics. Biological performance of the nanostructured materials are optimized in terms of homeability and controlled release of therapeutics as well as diminishing their detrimental effects. Some of these critical characteristics can be linked to particle morphology, size, dose, surface reactivity and inherent material characteristics. The research effort is extremely interdisciplinary, and integrates works in chemical syntheses, engineering of nanomaterials, rigorous physico-chemical characterization to achieve functional and theranostic “soft” nanometer-sized architectures. Basic (preclinical) and translational studies are performed towards the assimilation of multiple functionalities into these “soft” (hybrid inorganic-organic) nanostructured materials including their bio- and chemical reactivity, imaging competence, drug or gene delivery potential, environmental sensitivity and defined in vivo characteristics etc. Emphasis is placed on rational design and précised surface-engineering of nanoparticulate agents with well-defined polymeric or lipid-based architectures and biological relevant ligands (e.g. antibodies, peptides, peptidomimmetics etc.) based on in depth understanding of integrated biological processes at molecular level.

Bismuth nanobeacon targets fibrin in human clot- as detected by CT imaging

Sentinel Lymph Node (Yellow) detected with photoacoustic imaging


We are also excited to apply wide ranges of biomedical imaging tools to see biological events happening at a molecular level and identify the early signature of abnormalities. We employ magnetic resonance imaging (MR), computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET/SPECT) (clinical) and optical (NIR) and photoacoustics (PAT) (pre-clinical) depending on the complexity of a disease in an organ specific way.

We believe in collaborative science. Some of our academic and industrial research partners are situated all over the country and outside.

Carle Foundation Hospital
Partha Ray (Surgery)
George Liu (Pathology)

University of Illinois
Rohit Bhargava (Bioengineering)
Gang Logan Liu (Electrical Engineering)
Andrew Smith (Bioengineering)
Wawrzyniec Dobrucki (Bioengineering)
Greg Freund (Medicine/Pathology)

Washington University in St. Louis (WashU)
Greg Lanza (Cardiology)
Christine Pham (Medicine)
Allan Doctor (Pediatrics and Critical Care)
Babak Razani (Cardiology)

University of Toronto
Gregory Hare (Critical Care)

Industrial Collaborators
Clif Burdette and Goutam Ghoshal (Acosutic Med System)
Philips Research
Ocean NanoTech