ChBE Seminar: Modeling, understanding & treating neurodegeneration using engineering strategies
Speaker: Ethan Lippmann, Assistant Professor, Dept of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Vanderbilt University
Neurological disease imposes a significant socioeconomic burden, and the incidence of neurological disease is expected to rise concurrently with increases in worldwide life expectancy. However, no disease-modifying therapies are currently available for any acute or chronic neurodegenerative conditions, and the number of failed clinical trials in this space continues to grow. Some of these failures may be attributed to insufficient knowledge of the underlying mechanisms for disease onset and progression, a lack of robust model systems to appropriately test therapeutics, and an inability to deliver drugs to the diseased brain in appreciable doses. To address these issues, our research group applies biomolecular and biomedical engineering strategies to in vitro and in vivo investigations, with the goal of modeling, understanding, and ultimately treating neurodegeneration. In this talk, I will highlight subsets of recent progress in the lab, including our efforts to: (1) differentiate human pluripotent stem cells into brain endothelial cells for use in drug screening and disease modeling workflows; (2) build next-generation models of the vascularized human brain; (3) leverage affinity reagent selection techniques for diverse applications across molecular targeting, biosensing, and drug delivery.
Ethan received his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006 and his doctoral degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012. He spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow in Biomedical Engineering at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and then transitioned to a tenure-track assistant professorship in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Vanderbilt University in 2015, where he currently resides. Ethan’s research program generally focuses on modeling, understanding, and treating neurodegeneration, with a particular emphasis on the cerebrovascular interface. In recognition of his recent research efforts, he has received a NARSAD Young Investigator Award (Brain and Behavior Research Foundation), a Ben Barres Early Career Acceleration Award (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative), and a CAREER Award (NSF). He is also a two-time recipient of his department’s teaching award (ChBE Award for Excellence in Teaching) in recognition of his contributions to undergraduate education.