Rice professor to give biomedical engineering talk Monday

Junghae Suh, assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Rice University, will give a talk at Texas A&M University Monday (March 29) at 4:10 p.m. in Room 104 of the Jack E. Brown Engineering Building.Suh's talk, "Reprogramming Viruses for Controlled Gene Delivery," is part of the Department of Biomedical Engineering's seminar series.Abstract Delivering nucleic acid-based therapeutics into target cells specifically is a considerable challenge. Using concepts and tools from virology, protein engineering, and molecular biology, we are interested in developing virus-based gene delivery vectors to tackle this challenge in an innovative way. In the first application, we are focused on utilizing virus-based gene delivery vectors for tissue engineering/regenerative medicine. A significant hurdle in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine is the difficulty in achieving spatially organized tissue structures. To drive the proper hierarchical differentiation and assembly of cells, gene expression patterns may need to be tightly regulated. This may entail the expression of certain genes, involved in tissue genesis or repair, to be upregulated or downregulated in a spatially dependent manner. We are working towards leveraging the unique advantages of virus-based gene delivery systems to achieve this goal.In a second application, we are building a toolkit of innovative virus nanoparticles that can deliver nucleic acids specifically into breast cancer cells. In particular, we are using advances in protein engineering to develop viruses that are activated by tumor-specific biomolecular inputs. Overall, such sophisticated gene delivery vectors should yield improvements in the control and efficiency of nucleic acid delivery and lead to enhanced therapeutic outcomes.Biography Suh received her B.S. in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Before joining the Rice University Department of Bioengineering in 2007, she completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Her graduate research focused on understanding the interaction of nanoscale systems, either nature-derived or human-engineered, with complex biological environments in an effort to discover ruling paradigms that govern the performance of nanoparticles designed for various diagnostic and/or therapeutic applications. Her postdoctoral research focused on studying how natural viruses interface with cellular machinery, particularly those that maintain homeostasis in the cell nucleus. Such studies should uncover new insights into how synthetic nanoparticle systems can be designed to yield the performance efficiencies rivaling that of viruses.Currently, Suh works at the interface of chemistry, virology, biophysics, molecular biology and protein engineering to investigate and create novel virus-based materials for various biomedical applications. She has recently been awarded the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Concept Award and the Hamill Innovation Award for her innovative work on reprogramming viruses as therapeutic platforms.