BioE Graduates First Ph.D.

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Dr. Yingli Fu (Ph.D. '07)

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Yingli Fu, the first student to be awarded a Ph.D. from the Fischell Department of Bioengineering. She was advised by Professor Nam Sun Wang (Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering).

Fu explored a new kind of treatment for choroidal neovascularization (CNV), a type of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a chronic eye disease that causes blind spots, distortion or blurring in the center of the field of vision. In patients with CNV, the cause is the growth of abnormal blood vessels that invade and leak fluid into the retina. There is currently no cure for the condition.

Existing treatment methods used to slow the progression of AMD require patients to receive repeated eye injections, sometimes up to twice a week. Fu developed an implant that, when placed in the eye’s vitreous cavity during a single simple surgery, could release therapeutics over an extended period of time.

The implant consists of a powdered drug that is pressed into a pellet and encased in a biocompatible matrix made from a polyvinyl alcohol polymer. The matrix has pores that allow water inside the vitreous cavity to flow in and out. As the water gradually dissolves the pellet, drug particles diffuse through the pores and into the eye. The polymer also dissolves over time.

Animal model studies show the new drug is effective and that, in combination with the implant, can inhibit and even regress AMD.

Fu performed the research in collaboration with her co-advisor, Dr. Karl G. Csaky, at the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and with German pharmaceutical company Merck KGaA, which wanted to test the effectiveness of a new drug it had developed for treating AMD.

Fu plans continuing her work in drug delivery and biomaterials development in a postdoctoral position at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and is considering a career in academia.

Published December 19, 2007