A major research focus in the Cheng Research Group is to develop therapeutic nanomedicine. We are interested in several platforms and directions. Polymer-drug conjugate has been one of the major platforms for the design of drug delivery systems and the development of new therapeutics. We have worked on drug-initiated ring-opening polymerization for the synthesis of polylactide-drug conjugate and nanoconjugates. We have developed size well controlled silica-drug nanoconjugates and explored the size-distribution and size-efficacy correlation. We also developed the concept of chain-shattering polymeric therapeutics. We are interested in cancer targeting and has developed aptamer mediated cancer targeting. We will continue working in this area and aim to develop novel chemistry for making advanced materials and systems that allow efficiency delivery of therapeutics in vitro and in vivo.
Polypeptide synthesis and application has been one of the major focuses in our group. In the past, we successfully developed organosilicon reagent mediated controlled ring-opening polymerization of amino acid N-carboxyanhydride. We also developed the first design of charged helical polypeptides, and this class of special polypeptides have been used in gene and siRNA delivery and cell membrane penetration. We will continue developing polypeptide biomaterials, aiming to design smart polypeptide materials, develop polypeptides that have therapeutic activity or efficient delivery functions, and improve the chemistry for the synthesis of polypeptides.
Polypeptides were the first set of materials considered for use as nonviral gene delivery vectors. we reported our efforts to develop a library of cationic α-helical polypeptides with CPP-like properties for gene delivery through the well-known ROP of NCAs. Our results suggest that the incorporation of α-helical cationic polypeptides into our gene delivery vector library possess the ability to disrupt endosomes and the successful application both in vitro and in vivo.