PMI/PCCM SEMINAR SERIES SPRING 2023: Bahareh Behkam, Virginia Tech

Apr 5, 2023, 12:00 pm1:00 pm
Bowen Hall Auditorium 222



Event Description

Bacteria-mediated Mechanobiological Solutions for Combating Cancer and Implant Infection

Abstract: Mechanical forces and effects regulate all phenomena in our physical world—disease prevention and treatment are no exception. Our laboratory focuses on understanding the biophysics of disease development and devising biophysically-centered preventative/therapeutic approaches. In this seminar, I will provide an overview of our recent efforts in this space with emphasis on developing bacteria-based cancer therapy.

I will share our work in developing a bacteria-based engineered system known as Nanoscale Bacteria-Enabled Autonomous Delivery System (NanoBEADS) for cancer therapy. Each NanoBEADS agent comprises an engineered Salmonella Typhimurium bacterium and an ensemble of engineered polymeric nanoparticle “cargo.” First, I will discuss the scalable biomanufacturing of NanoBEADS. Next, I will describe our work using synthetic biology to harness biological controllers and develop a distributed network of NanoBEADS agents that function as an intelligent, reconfigurable, and adaptable swarm. I will discuss the crucial role of computational modeling in probing the interplay between the sensitivity of biological controllers and the robustness of emergent behaviors in NanoBEADS swarms in the context of targeted drug delivery. I will conclude with recent results in overcoming the formidable physical barriers to drug penetration in primary and metastatic tumors using the NanoBEADS 2.0 platform. Autonomous biohybrid drug delivery systems such as NanoBEADS could unlock a powerful new paradigm in cancer therapy by improving the therapeutic index of chemotherapeutics and minimizing systemic side effects.

Bio: Prof. Bahareh Behkam obtained her B.Sc. degree from Sharif University of Technology and her M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, all in Mechanical Engineering. She is the John R. Jones III Faculty Fellow and associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, where she directs the MicroN BASE Laboratory. Her current research interests include bio-hybrid microrobotic systems for biomedical applications, mechanobiology of pathogen-biomaterial and pathogen-host cell interactions, and cell migration in multi-cue environments. She was a recipient of the Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering Outstanding New Assistant Professor Award in 2012, the National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2015, and the Journal of Biological Engineering Emerging Leaders in 2022. Her research work has been awarded the 2012 Adhesion Society Peeble Award, the 2013 ASME-NEMB Aline Best Paper Award, the 2014 ASME-NEMB Best Poser Award, the 2018 MARSS Best Conference Paper Award, and the 2020 IMECE-NSF Top Experimental Research Award. She is an associate editor for the Journal of Micro-Bio Robotics and a member of the international advisory board for Small Structures.

All seminars are held on Wednesdays from 12:00 noon-1:00 p.m. in the Bowen Hall Auditorium Room 222. A light lunch is provided at 11:30 a.m. in the Bowen Hall Atrium immediately prior to the seminar.