Recent News

“What our team has done,” explains Khushboo Singh, a graduate student in the chemistry department and one of the study’s lead authors, “is to combine the advantages of biologics and ADCs and address their weaknesses. It is a new platform for cancer therapy.”

A team of researchers at the Center for Bioactive Delivery at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institute for Applied Life Sciences has engineered a nanoparticle that has the potential to revolutionize disease treatment, including for cancer. This new research, which appears today in “Angewandte Chemie,”combines two different approaches to more precisely and effectively deliver treatment to the specific cells affected by cancer.

Two of the most promising new treatments involve delivery of cancer-fighting drugs via biologics or antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). Each has its own advantages and limitations. Biologics, such as protein-based drugs, can directly substitute for a malfunctioning protein in cells. As a result, they have less serious side effects than those associated with traditional chemotherapy. But, because of their large size, they are unable to get into specific cells. ADCs, on the other hand, are able to target specific malignant cells with microdoses of therapeutic drugs, but the antibodies can only carry a limited drug cargo. Since the drugs are more toxic than biologics, increasing the dose of ADCs increases the risk of harmful side effects.

The team’s approach depends on a nanoparticle the team engineered called a “protein-antibody conjugate,” or PAC. “Imagine that the antibodies in PACs are the address on an envelope,” adds Sankaran “Thai” Thayumanavan, distinguished professor in chemistry and interim head of biomedical engineering at UMass, “and that the cancer-fighting protein is the contents of that envelope. The PAC allows us to deliver the envelope with its protected treatment to the correct address. So, safer drugs are delivered to the right cell—the result would be a treatment with fewer side effects.”

Mingxu You, assistant professor of chemistry at UMass Amherst, has been awarded one of 16 $100,000 Teacher-Scholar unrestricted awards from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. But when the award e-mail came later that day, he knew it was true. “It was quite an unexpected, and very welcome, surprise” You says. “We are thrilled,” says Rick Metz, head of the chemistry department, “that Mingxu’s dynamic research and teaching have received this recognition.”

The Dreyfus Foundation’s Teacher-Scholar award goes to a handful of early-career chemists who “have each created an outstanding independent body of scholarship, and are deeply committed to education.” You is clearly both. Though he’s early in his career, he’s already authored or co-authored nearly 80 academic articles, and his lab is a hive of activity: it currently hosts ten graduate and five undergraduate students. In the past four years alone, he’s guided 15 undergrads, two postdocs, and five research fellows through advanced chemistry research, and in doing so is helping to introduce the next generation to the joys of chemistry. “The undergrads are getting real training,” say You. “They quickly learn what we’re doing in our lab, and they make real contributions to our experiments.”

For You, there’s a seamless connection between the classroom and the lab. “When I teach undergraduates, I need to revisit the basics of chemistry, and I’m always discovering insights that I had passed over when I was a student.” When one of You’s students joins his lab, they not only bring their classroom education with them, but return to class bearing some of what they discovered in the lab.

“I’d like to thank the hard work of everyone in the You Lab,” says You, for whom UMass has been an ideal research and teaching home. “The environment in the chemistry department is really supportive of early career scholars.”

Each year, the College of Natural Sciences honors its faculty, staff, and student leaders who have made important contributions to their discipline, department, college, and university by presenting them with the Outstanding Achievement Awards. Recipients are nominated by colleagues within the college and chosen by committees chaired by designees appointed by Dean Tricia Serio, who may include past awardees. Of this year’s recipients, Dean Serio remarked, “These leaders continue to enrich our college community with their exceptional work. I am tremendously grateful for their efforts to demonstrate academic excellence, enhance the student experience, and create a more inclusive and accessible learning environment.”

Robert “Bob” Sabola, Instrumentation Engineer, Chemistry was a recipient of the award and commented, "Truly a surprise, maybe even a little shocking, when I learned that I was chosen as a recipient of the CNS Outstanding Achievement Award. It is an honor for me to receive this award. Thank you to all the faculty, staff, and students who contributed to this nomination. I always had the thought that my job is to make the lives of those who are on campus a little bit easier. It’s easy to do when you enjoy what you do for work. As always, it has been a pleasure and joy to have worked for you and with you throughout the years. What more can I say other than thank you."

The 2021 and 2020 CNS Outstanding Achievements Awards Ceremony were combined this year and held virtually. Here is a recording of the event.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst believes that a culturally diverse campus is integral to academic excellence and that our students, faculty, and staff should reflect the diverse world in which we live. Recognizing and valuing the wide range of voices and perspectives in all spheres of the academic enterprise, we are committed to policies that promote inclusiveness, social justice, and respect for all.

“Fostering an environment that protects intellectual exploration, advances mutual respect, and promotes inclusivity is critical to the mission of the university.” — Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy

The UMass Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion supports these efforts with resources, events, campus climate initiatives, podcasts, and more.

Antiracism Resources - Books, podcasts, movies, and programs for adults and children.
Fight Hate - Our community must stand united in the face of hate.

Building Bridges is a campus initiative that seeks to draw on the power of solidarity and creative expression to bring people together across race, religion, class, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, nationality and more.

Upcoming Events

Ann Candice Fernandez
Dissertation Defense
Friday, June 25, 2021

Behavioral modulation of supramolecular assemblies via covalent and non-covalent interfacial transformations"

9:00 am
zoom
Research Adviser:
S. Thayumanavan
Muhammad Abdullah
Dissertation Defense
Friday, July 2, 2021

"Manipulating the Aliovalent Magnetic Dopants in Ti(IV)-based Oxide Nanocrystals"

11:00 am
zoom
Research Adviser:
Kevin Kittilstved
Michael Mingroni
Dissertation Defense
Wednesday, July 14, 2021

"Primary KIE for substrate hydroxylation and iron binding regulation in FIH"

1:00 pm
Research Adviser:
Michael Knapp
Hongxu Liu
Dissertation Defense
Wednesday, July 21, 2021

"New chemical tools for the design of stimuli-responsive supramolecular assemblies and functional polymers"

1:00 pm
zoom
Research Adviser:
S. Thayumanavan
Qikun Yu
Dissertation Defense
Wednesday, July 28, 2021

"Genetically encoded RNA devices for advanced live-cell imaging"

11:00 am
Research Adviser:
Mingxu You