ChemComm Milestones – Yi (David) Ju

We are excited to share the success of Yi (David) Ju’s first-time independent article in ChemComm; “Engineering poly(ethylene glycol) particles for targeted drug delivery included in the full milestones collection. 

Read our interview with David below.

What are the main areas of research in your lab and what motivated you to take this direction?

My research has two main streams: 1) understanding how physicochemical properties of nanomaterials mediate protein interactions and modulate downstream biological responses; 2) engineering advanced nanoparticle systems for biotechnology and medical applications. The most significant challenge in the development of nanomedicines is the recognition and inactivation by the immune system. When synthetic nanoparticles are introduced into the blood, they are coated with a multitude of host-derived biological components (including proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids) within the bloodstream. These coatings on the surface of the nanomaterials make up the biomolecular corona and regulate the downstream immune responses. The understanding of bio–nano interactions is essential in the therapeutic field and the development of nanomedicine formulations because it influences the final product utility. My vision is to exploit this goal towards developing new functional nanoparticles to overcome biological barriers and increase delivery efficiency to the target.

Can you set this article in a wider context?

It is well known that poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) is the gold standard for the low-fouling surface modifications of nanomaterials. Various nanoparticles (NPs) have shown improved colloidal stability and stealth properties through PEG modification. Since 2013, we have focused on engineering PEG-based NPs, in which PEG is the only or one of the main components of the NPs. The present feature article summarizes our recent research in engineering PEG-based NPs via different methods (i.e., mesoporous silica-assisted templating, metal–phenolic network-assisted assembly, metal–organic framework-assisted templating, and sono-polymerization) for bio–nano interaction studies and targeted drug delivery applications. The use of different engineering strategies enables the tuning of the physiochemical properties of PEG-based NPs (e.g., size, structure, elasticity, and compositions) for controlled bio–nano interactions (e.g., stealth and targeting) and drug-loading capabilities. A perspective is also provided on the major challenges of PEG-based NPs and their potential immunogenicity as well as future research directions. This feature article is expected to serve as a reference to guide the engineering of PEG-based NPs and facilitate the rational design of PEG-based NPs for diverse emerging applications.

What do you hope your lab can achieve in the coming year?

We aim to make progress on engineering advanced nanoparticle system for drug and gene delivery and understanding the interactions between nanoparticles and the human immune system.

Describe your journey to becoming an independent researcher.

My PhD was conducted in Prof. Frank Caruso’s lab at the University of Melbourne. During this period, I developed interests in the development of ‘stealth’ nanomaterials and investigation of fundamental bio–nano interactions in complex biological environments. After my PhD completion, I hold a Research Fellow position in the same group exploring various low-fouling nanomaterials for controlled bio–nano interactions and served as a Co-Leader of the Signature Project ‘Mediating Protein Interactions’ within the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio–Nano Science and Technology (CBNS). During my postdoctoral career, I have begun to pursue and demonstrate research leadership. I received an Early Career Researcher (ECR) Grant from the University of Melbourne. With this grant, I led a team producing a first-author publication in ACS Nano, which received the 2020 Most Significant Publication Award from CBNS. I was also awarded an Outstanding Postdoctoral Researcher Award at University of Melbourne in 2019. In 2021, I moved to RMIT University as a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral fellow and published my first co-corresponding author paper in 2022. During this fellowship, I received research grants and awards, including an ECR Lectureship from Australasian Colloid and Interface Society and a Victoria Fellowship from Victorian State Government, which supported me to conduct an oversea research visit at the University of Manchester from January to September 2023. After coming back from the UK in 2023, I started my ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) fellowship at RMIT University.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

‘Not only work hard but work smart’ from my PhD supervisor.

Why did you choose to publish in ChemComm?

ChemComm was one of my favourite journals which provides key research messages in a short format. The journal has a good reputation with a broad readership in chemistry.

Yi (David) Ju is an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow at RMIT University. He received his Ph.D. in 2017 from the University of Melbourne under the supervision of Prof. Frank Caruso and thereafter conducted postdoctoral research at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology and the University of Melbourne. He moved to RMIT University in 2021 as a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow. During his appointment, he conducted an overseas research visit (January to September 2023) at the University of Manchester funded by a Victoria Fellowship. His research interests focus on studying the interactions between nanomaterials and the immune system and engineering advanced nanoparticle systems for biotechnology and medical applications.



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