Curiosity Expert: Professor Joseph M. DeSimone

Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill & William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, North Carolina State University

Professor Joseph M. DeSimone
courtesy of Professor Joseph M. DeSimone

The ability to bridge disciplines to accelerate scientific progress comes naturally to scientist and entrepreneur, Joseph DeSimone. DeSimone's use of insights from different fields has led to innovations such as a bioabsorbable cardiac stent and an environmentally-friendly way to manufacture Teflon®.

Today, DeSimone has successfully harnessed the precision and uniformity of the microelectronics industry to design and fabricate precisely engineered micro and nanoparticle formulations, creating the foundation for the next generation of vaccines and therapeutics.

Through a proprietary process known as PRINT® (Particle Replication In Non-wetting Templates) technology, DeSimone has established a powerful and versatile product development platform that is revolutionizing the way that companies engineer healthcare products.

An especially exciting dimension of DeSimone's work is the exploitation of the shape control afforded by PRINT to make particles that can preferentially accumulate in tumors for safer, more effective cancer therapies. DeSimone and his team have also been able to mimic the size, shape, and elasticity of red blood cells, enabling red blood cell mimics to pass through physical barriers in the body much in the way that real red blood cells do.

Liquidia Technologies, co-founded by DeSimone in 2004, is currently using PRINT to overcome many of the challenges currently facing the healthcare industry. Specifically, Liquidia has the ability to rapidly scale up cGMP manufacturing of particles with unprecedented control over the composition and morphology, allowing Liquidia to address efficacy, safety, and dosing challenges of products across all segments of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology landscape, on top of creating new opportunities for product specific intellectual property.

Liquidia recently advanced the first PRINT product—a nanoparticle-based seasonal flu vaccine—through the completion of the company's first Phase 1 clinical trial. In 2011, the company announced a partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) to explore the use of PRINT to design next-generation malaria vaccines. Also in 2011 Liquidia received the first ever equity investment by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a privately held for-profit biotech company.

DeSimone is Chancellor's Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill and William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at N.C. State University. He is also an adjunct member at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. DeSimone has received over 40 major awards and recognitions including the 2010 AAAS Mentor Award, the 2009 NIH Director's Pioneer Award, and the 2008 Lemelson-MIT Prize. In 2005 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. DeSimone has published more than 280 scientific articles and has 130 patents with over 120 patents pending. He received his B.S. in chemistry in 1986 from Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA, and his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1990 from Virginia Tech.