Andorko Wins Bioengineering Conference Poster Award

Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BioE) graduate student James Imre Andorko IV, advised by BioE assistant professor Christopher Jewell, won the Masters Division of the 2013 Northeastern Bioengineering Conference (NEBEC) poster competition held in Syracuse, N.Y. in April.

Based on research Andorko performed for his Master's thesis at Drexel University, "Development of Stealth Polymeric Ultrasound Contrast Agents" described his and former advisor Professor Margaret A. Wheatley's efforts to creating a drug delivery vehicle capable of avoiding detection by the immune system after injection.

Andorko worked with a material he calls a "theranostic"–part therapeutic, part diagnostic–designed to serve as both a drug carrier and as an ultrasound imaging contrast agent. Previous research in Wheatley's group revealed the theranostics were provoking an immune response which resulted in them being trapped in the liver and spleen instead of reaching their intended destination. Andorko's poster explained how he was able to incorporate a "stealth" polymer called polyethylene glycol (PEG)—which does not trigger an immune system response–into the theranostic material without substantially or negatively affecting its properties. Subsequent experiments, he says, revealed that the PEG-cloaked system lowered immune response, allowing it to deliver the drugs it it carried.

At the Clark School, Andorko has been able to draw on his thesis experience in Jewell's Immune and Autoimmune Engineering Laboratory, which develops biomaterials that generate immune responses with specific, controllable characteristics. Having seen "one side of the coin" trying to prevent immune system responses, he now applies his insight, as well as the particle synthesis techniques he used at Drexel, to the other as he tries to generate responses that could help treat autoimmune diseases.

Published May 2, 2013