UNITE Featured Speakers

Monday, September 20 at 12 p.m. ET

Si "Stacie" Chen, PhD
Jilian Melamed, PhD

Dr. Si “Stacie” Chen is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Washington University in St. Louis. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Optical Sciences and Engineering from Fudan University, Shanghai, in 2011 and her Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Rochester, New York, in 2013. Dr. Chen subsequently received her PhD degree in Bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2018. Dr. Chen’s interdisciplinary background lies at the interface of engineering, vascular biology, and systems biology. During her PhD, she developed a flow cytometry-based platform to quantify single-cell membrane receptors involved in angiogenesis. Using this platform, she led collaborations with the Mayo Clinic and discovered heterogeneity of angiogenic receptors on tumor-associated endothelial cells from a patient-derived xenograft model of glioblastoma. Dr. Chen’s current work focuses on understanding cellular and molecular mechanisms of blood brain barrier opening by focused ultrasound combining with microbubbles. Her long-term goal is to study understand how vascular heterogeneity in the tumor microenvironment affects drug delivery, and how ultrasound-activated microbubbles can be used to remodel the tumor vasculature.    Dr. Melamed completed her undergraduate studies in BME at Rutgers University, where her undergraduate research focused on photothermal cancer therapy. She completed her PhD at the University of Delaware with Dr. Emily Day, where she investigated nanoparticle-mediated siRNA therapy to combat drug resistance in glioblastoma. She is currently an F32 postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University, where she researches mRNA delivery with Dr. Katie Whitehead. She is looking to establish a vibrant independent research program advancing drug and gene delivery for incurable diseases.
Profiling glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) heterogeneity and angiogenic biomarkers: Impact on anti-angiogenic therapy   Lipid nanoparticles deliver mRNA to the pancreas following intraperitoneal administration
Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common, primary malignant brain tumor. Dysregulation of tyrosine kinase receptor (RTK) signaling pathways play important roles in glioblastoma (GBM). However, therapies targeting these signaling pathways have not been successful, partially because of drug resistance. Increasing evidence suggests that tumor heterogeneity may contribute to drug resistance. To unravel this heterogeneity and identify potential biomarkers for drug resistance, we developed a single-cell quantitative approach named qFlow cytometry, to profile a panel of 8 plasma membrane RTKs on tumor endothelial cells (tECs), a major component of the GBM microenvironment. These studies will help provide novel insights into mechanisms of anti-angiogenic therapy resistance as well as drug development.  In this talk, I will also briefly discuss my current postdoctoral work on understanding cellular and mechanisms of blood brain barrier opening by focused ultrasound-activated microbubbles.    The rapid development of mRNA lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) as highly effective vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 has ushered in a new era for mRNA-based gene therapy. Delivering therapeutic mRNA to express proteins of interest in situ lends itself to diverse clinical applications, including vaccine development, protein replacement therapy, cancer immunotherapy, and gene editing. Despite this, delivering mRNA to major organs outside the reticuloendothelial system remains challenging. Here, we present an unprecedented strategy to deliver mRNA to the pancreas, with most protein expression occurring within islets. This platform has tremendous potential to deliver therapeutic genes to treat diabetes and rare islet cell cancers.