To hear Jiayi Pan tell it, he has known he would be a medical researcher since middle school. “When I was a kid I always said I wanted to do something where I could work in a lab, and do experiments,” says Pan with a laugh, “but then I grew up and did it!”
After earning a BS in Pharmaceutical Science from East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai, Pan received an MS from Northeastern in 2015 in the same field. As he prepares to complete his PhD in summer 2019, he reflects on his singular focus: “In the big pharma companies, they have hundreds, thousands of developed drugs sitting on the shelf, with no means to administer them. To make those drugs usable for the patients that need them, someone has to develop a delivery system.”
During his Master’s program at Northeastern, Pan resolved to be that someone. While looking for a lab group to join to acquire some laboratory experience, he encountered Professor Vladimir P. Torchilin and his work in Nanomedicine. Inspired by their discussions of Professor Torchilin’s work, Pan joined his lab as a Ph.D. student in 2015.
Today, Pan’s research revolves around the development of chemotherapeutics and nucleic acid therapies co-delivery systems for multi-drug resistant cancers; in these cases, cancer patients develop resistances to traditional drug therapies, causing their treatments to lose effectiveness over time. “It is terrible, because the treatments will work one, two, three times, and then stop,” says Pan, “My research focuses on reversing this drug resistance, so that patients whose cancers are resistant to chemotherapeutics can again become sensitive to the therapies, allowing their treatments to function again.”
To accomplish this, Pan is researching lipid/polymer-based drug delivery systems that he hopes will be able to allow existing drugs to regain their effectiveness if a patient’s cancer stops responding to treatment. “I’m not trying to develop a new molecule, so much as trying to knock out the resistance pathway in the body,” says Pan, “This is an alternative way to develop new therapies, while also making use of drugs that already exist.”
Pan anticipates completing his PhD at the end of 2019, and is still deciding what the next step in his research will be – he is considering both post-doctoral postings, as well as moving directly to a laboratory role with a pharmaceutical company. “I want to expand my techniques to encompass the delivery of larger molecules, peptides, proteins and the like. Right now, I am just focused on going wherever I will get the greatest opportunity to learn.”