Engineering Nanomedical Systems

By James Leary

Purdue University

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A more current version of this talk can be viewed at: Engineering Nanomedical Systems.

Conventional medicine is reactive to tissue-level problems that are discovered at the symptomatic level. Nanomedicine has the promise to diagnose and treat problems at the molecular level inside single-cells, far earlier and prior to the appearance of traditional symptoms. Beyond the obvious application of bionanotechnology to medicine, the approach is fundamentally different.

Nanomedicine, as a nanotechnology approach, is a "bottoms up" rather than "top down" approach to medicine - treating cells one cell at a time. Nanomedicine is a form of regenerative medicine, not just a killing of diseased cells whereby tissues and organs that are repairable can be "regenerated" through repair mechanisms. It typically combines use of molecular biosensors to provide for feedback control of treatment and repair on a single-cell basis. Feedback control is a common feature of engineered systems, but relatively foreign to medicine.

This tutorial will cover general problems and approaches to the design of engineered nanomedical systems. An example to be covered is the engineering design of programmable multilayered nanoparticles (PMNP) to control a multi-sequence process of targeting to rare cells in-vivo, re-targeting to intracellular sites, and controlling of final gene/drug delivery. Therapeutic genes can be manufactured inside living cells as a "nanofactory" under the control of these molecular biosensors providing feedback- controlled single cell medicine.


James F. Leary Dr. Leary moved to Purdue on July 1, 2005 and became the SVM (School of Veterinary Medicine) Endowed Professor of Nanomedicine and a tenured full professor in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences and the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. He is also a Member of the Bindley Biosciences Center, Birck Nanotechnology Center, and the Oncological Science at Discovery Park where his laboratories are located. He is also a Member of the Purdue Cancer Center.

For the previous 10 years Dr. Leary was a tenured Professor of Internal Medicine (Division of Infectious Diseases), Pathology, Biophysics, Microbiology & Immunology, and Human Biological Chemistry & Genetics as well as an Assistant Director of the Biomedical Engineering Center, an Affiliated Senior Scientist in the Sealy Centers for Molecular Sciences, Structural Biology, Cancer Cell Biology, Vaccine Development, and the Program in Bioinformatics. He also served as Assistant Vice President of Research for Advanced Technology. Prior to this position Dr. Leary was an Assistant and Associate Professor of Experimental Pathology at the University of Rochester Medical School.

Dr. Leary's research and teaching career as a professor spans more than 27 years. His original training includes an aerospace engineering degree from M.I.T., postgraduate work in astrophysics and a Ph.D. in Biophysics from Penn State University with a postdoctoral fellowship at Los Alamos National Laboratory. His research has been continuously funded by NIH for more than 25 years. He is the holder of 7 U.S. Patents, with 3 currently pending and is the author of numerous papers in the fields of high-throughput technologies, minimal residual disease monitoring, developmental immunology, cancer research, and nanomedicine. Dr. Leary has served on numerous national expert review panels for more than 20 years and is a frequently invited speaker at national and international scientific conferences. His current funded research spans three general areas: (1) development of new high-throughput screening technologies for genomics, proteomics, and drug discovery (2) microgenomics of adult human stem cells at the single cell level (the new field of "cytomics"), and (3) smart nano-engineered systems for single-cell drug/gene delivery for nanomedicine and vaccine development.

As part of the third application area, he has been developing multilayered, smart nanosystems containing cell targeting, entry facilitation, and localization molecules with molecular biosensors controlling delivery of therapeutic genes into single cells. These are the subject of a number of peer-reviewed publications and pending patents.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • James Leary (2006), "Engineering Nanomedical Systems,"

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