Biomaterials Science Emerging investigator – Maria Chiara Arno

Dr Maria Chiara Arno is an Assistant Professor in Polymeric Biomaterials at the University of Birmingham, working jointly across the School of Chemistry and the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences as a Birmingham Fellow.

She completed a PhD at King’s College London in 2015, focusing on the development of peptide-like drugs for the treatment of pathologies linked to a dysregulation in iron metabolism. Following her doctoral studies, Maria Chiara took up a Research Fellow position at the University of Warwick, investigating the biological interactions of polymeric nanoparticles and 3D scaffolds in vitro and in vivo with Prof. Andrew Dove. In 2018, the group moved to the University of Birmingham where she took up a position as a Group Leader in Biomaterials Chemistry.

Her current research is focussed on the development of novel cell-based therapies and materials.

Read Maria Chiara’s Emerging Investigator article, “Enhanced drug delivery to cancer cells through a pH-sensitive polycarbonate platform”, DOI: 10.1039/D2BM01626E.


Check out our interview below:

1. How do you feel about Biomaterials Science as a place to publish research on this topic?

Biomaterials Science is an exceptional journal for publishing research that fits at the interface between material chemistry and biology. In particular, the emphasis of the journal on the in vitro and in vivo investigations of a diverse range of materials makes it an ideal platform for studies that exploit how material design can influence biological performance. In our paper published as part of the Emerging Investigators series we designed a polymer-drug conjugate with a degradable polycarbonate backbone and a pH-sensitive linker for delivery to cancer cells. While cancer-cell selectivity is usually achieved through targeting specific receptors at the cell surface, we demonstrated that our polymer platform can achieve enhanced delivery towards a wide range of cancer cells when compared to non-cancerous cell lines, as a consequence of its physicochemical properties.


2. What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment and what do you find most challenging about your research?

I am really fortunate to work with incredibly talented people who share my passion for designing new polymers for applications in drug delivery and tissue engineering. I find it exciting and fulfilling to work at the interface of two fundamentally different fields (chemistry and biology). While this presents its challenges, it is incredibly rewarding to develop new science from the conceptual design of a project to the synthesis of new compounds and the investigation of their biological performance.


3. In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

I think it is important to ask ourselves how we, as scientists, are going to drive the field forward and what the next big problem to tackle is in the field of biomaterials. It is also fundamental to discuss solutions to this problem and work collaboratively towards those. I believe that conducting multidisciplinary research through collaborations among individuals from different disciplines is key to reach this goal.


4. Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Be creative and build a network of people you trust and you want to work with. Don’t be shy to reach to your network when you need, you’ll find that most people are nice and keen to help.


Find out more about Maria Chiara’s research on her lab website.

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