International CBNS collaborations are leading to strong research outcomes

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Nghia Truong Phuoc talks about his recent working visit to University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). 

Dr Nghia Truong Phuoc recently returned from a six-week working visit to the Hawker Group lab at UCSB who are international partners in the CBNS. The visit in October 2016 was made possible through the CBNS partnership with Craig J. Hawker and The Honourable Geoffrey Connard AM Early Career Researcher travelling award. We spoke to Nghia about his visit and how his experience at the Hawker Group has helped his research and opened up opportunities for collaboration.

Examples of nano-structuresNghia’s research focuses on developing highly functional polymers – used for targeted drug delivery, and patient imaging. He explains that ‘by developing nano-based structures that are in a worm-like shape, similar to the shape of some bacteria, viruses and fungi found in nature, these can be used for improved drug delivery and imaging applications as they have lower potential for rejection by the human body. They can also be designed to target specific cells, such as tumour cells. Nghia is currently building a library of differently shaped nano-structures (see figure below for some examples) which could be used for improved treatments in the future.

The Hawker Group lab is a specialist polymer fabrication lab and Nghia explained that during his tour, he learned valuable synthesis techniques, which can be utilised back at his home lab, at the CBNS Monash node, in Melbourne. These synthesis techniques included integrating fluorinated materials into complex, sequence-controlled polymer-based structures. This has a significant potential benefit for MRI based imaging applications due to fluorine having the characteristics of a high contrast imaging agent. Combining fluorine with highly-defined sequence-controlled polymer structures that mimic biological ones, could result in more detailed and informative imaging for cancer and other disease diagnosis.

Nghia said that his visit to the world-class Hawker Group’s lab was beneficial in many ways. He was warmly welcomed into the group by Dr Athina Anastasaki, attended their regular group meetings and was able to learn a number of different chemistry techniques due to the diversity of the 30-member strong group. In addition, Nghia also had an opportunity to transfer his synthesis techniques to the members of the Hawker group. Three high-impact publications are currently under preparation for publishing as an initial result of his collaborations. In addition, further works are making good progress under the leadership of Dr Nghia Truong Phuoc (Monash node) and Dr Athina Anastasaki (UCSB node).

Nghia hopes to welcome members of the Hawker Group to the Monash node in the near future. We look forward to learning more about the progress of his research as it unfolds.