Joseph M. DeSimone

Joseph M. DeSimone, PhD, is a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center member and Chancellors Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Chancellors Eminent Professor of Chemistry
UNC-Chapel Hill
Molecular Therapeutics

Area of interest

Current Research Interests:
Applying the lithographic fabrication technologies from the computer industry for the design and synthesis of new medicines and vaccines; Nanomedicine; Interventional oncology; Fluoropolymers: photolithography, batteries, microfluidics, minimally adhesive surfaces; Medical devices; Colloid, surfactant and surface chemistry; New 3D Printing strategies; Role of diversity in innovation; Entrepreneurship from research-intensive universities; Public – private partnerships.

Research Synopsis:
The recent breakthroughs in the DeSimone laboratories using specifically-designed materials for imprint lithography have enabled an extremely versatile and flexible method for the direct fabrication and harvesting of monodisperse, shape-specific nano-biomaterials. The method, referred to as Particle Replication In Non-wetting Templates, or PRINT, allows for the fabrication of monodisperse particles with simultaneous control over structure (i.e. shape, size, composition) and function (i.e. cargo, surface structure).

Unlike other particle fabrication techniques, PRINT is delicate and general enough to be compatible with a variety of important next-generation cancer therapeutic, detection and imaging agents, including various cargos (e.g. DNA, proteins, chemotherapy drugs, biosensor dyes, radio-markers, contrast agents), targeting ligands (e.g. antibodies, cell targeting peptides) and functional matrix materials (e.g. bioabsorbable polymers, stimuli responsive matrices, etc).

PRINT particles are presently being designed to reach new understandings and therapies in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Early detection via targeted delivery of the imaging agent goes hand in hand with these new directions. Cellular targeting can be accomplished by attaching cell-specific ligands to the surface of the PRINT particle. Potential cell-specific ligands include the integrin receptor peptide (GRGDSP), melanocyte stimulating hormone, vasoactive intestional peptide, anti-Her2 mouse antibodies, cell-penetrating peptides, and a variety of vitamins.

Once targeted with a cell specific ligand, the PRINT particle can be delivered and imaged at the desired site. In this respect, PRINT particles promise great potential, since it is possible to utilize the ability to specifically target, be shape and size-specific, possess tunable matrixes, as well as the ability to incorporate imaging contrast agents. The PRINT technology from our lab is playing an integral part in the NIH PPG as well as the newly awarded Carolina Cancer Center of Nanotechnology Excellence Grants.

Awards and Honors

  • 2015 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor in the U.S. for achievement and leadership in advancing technological progress
  • 2015 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine from Northwestern University
  • 2015 Dickson Prize for Science from Carnegie Mellon University
  • 2014 Elected Member of the National Academy of Medicine
  • 2014 Industrial Research Institute Medalist
  • 2014 Kathryn C. Hach Award for Entrepreneurial Success, ACS National Award (w/ Ben Maynor and Jason Rolland, for developing the PRINT imprint lithography technology and founding Liquidia Technologies)
  • 2013 Fellow, National Academy of Inventors
  • 2012 Walston Chubb Award for Innovation, presented by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, to honor and promote creativity in science and engineering
  • 2012 Elected Member of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 2010 AAAS Mentor Award recognizing mentorship of students from underrepresented groups toward completion of PhDs in the sciences
  • 2011 Mendel Medal from Villanova University
  • 2011 recipient of the Harrison Howe Award by the Rochester Section of the American Chemical Society
  • 2009 recipient of North Carolina Award for Science
  • 2009 recipient of NIH Director’s Pioneer Award
  • 2008 recipient of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize
  • 2008 Tar Heel of the Year, Raleigh News & Observer
  • Named one of the “One Hundred Engineers of the Modern Era” by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) marking the 100th Anniversary of the AIChE Business Leader Magazine “2007/2008 Impact Entrepreneur of the Year for the Triangle”
  • 2008 Inductee into the Order of the Golden Fleece, the oldest honor society of its kind in the nation (since 1904) and the most prestigious honor society at UNC Chapel Hill
  • 2007 Collaboration Success Award from The Council for Chemical Research
  • 2006 Elected, College of Fellows, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering
  • 2006 Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • 2006 H.F. Whalen, Jr. Award for Entrepreneurship by ACS Div. of Business Development & Management
  • 2005 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention
  • 2005 Elected Member of the National Academy of Engineering
  • 2005 Elected Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2002 John Scott Award presented by the City Trusts, Philadelphia, given to “the most deserving” men and women whose inventions have contributed in some outstanding way to the “comfort, welfare and happiness” of mankind
  • 2000 Oliver Max Gardner Award from the University of North Carolina, given to the person, who in the opinion of the Board of Governors’ Committee, “. . . during the current scholastic year, has made the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race”
  • 1997 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award

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