Sally Ann Cryan is Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics and Research Lead in the School of Pharmacy, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Her research group works in the areas of drug delivery and advanced materials to develop tools and technologies that will be of use to the broader scientific community – both in industry and academia. 

What does your research at involve?
This work includes the development of specialised drug delivery platforms for therapeutic drug molecules, with a particular focus on three areas: (i) delivery of biotherapeutics including proteins, genes and cells (ii) bioengineering of advanced medical materials and integration with medical devices and (iii) respiratory drug delivery. These drug delivery platforms are being developed for application in tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis and acute lung injury, inflammatory disease and cancer as well as in regenerative medicine including respiratory, orthopaedic and cardiovascular applications. 

Through CURAM we are also working on developing better tools for translation including high throughput cellular screening methods and 3D tissue engineered models to analyse the efficacy of new and existing nanotechnologies and devices. Importantly we are also training the next generation of top level researchers at CÚRAM which is a really rewarding part of the work. 

Can you tell us how you collaborate with industry?
We do a lot of work with industry on convergent drug-device combinations. We are currently involved with two projects at CÚRAM with industry partners that focus on respiratory disease as a clinical target. 

One of our current projects with Avectas also incorporates regenerative medicine and aims to harness their Spraybase® technology to develop bioengineered tracheal scaffolds that can support new tissue formation. This project will not only help us to standardize the production of these scaffolds but also investigate the incorporation of therapeutic molecules (drugs and growth factors) for enhanced regeneration. It will also help us to examine novel, biomimetic materials and their suitability for use in other tissue engineering applications. 

We have partnered with Aerogen to investigate the delivery of a range of therapeutics to the lungs using Aerogen’s vibrating mesh technology. We want to be able to deliver novel therapeutics, including biotherapeutics to where they’re needed in the lungs. We’re also looking at harnessing functionalised biomaterials in combination with this technology which will allow us to deliver the therapeutic  biomolecules to the airways in a controlled and targeted manner. The project will further the development of convergent nanomedicine-device combinations. 

How did you become interested in this area of research? 
I initially trained as a pharmacist so having exposure to patients and the clinical application of research helped develop an interest in looking at the efficacy of drug delivery and the development of new therapeutic molecules and materials in the lab. The opportunity to work on these projects within CURAM as part of a multidisciplinary team of academic researchers and industrial scientists offers a unique and exciting opportunity to maximise the impact of the work our team does.