Missions & Functions

CT3N was established within ITMAT in 2010 under the aegis of the NIH Clinical and Translation Science Award (PENN-CHOP/CTSA) to foster translational efforts in targeting therapeutic and imaging agents. The PENN/CHOP juncture bridges adult and pediatric biomedicine in the realms of CT3N.  In 2016, CT3N was transformed into a joint center connecting the Perelman School of Medicine and Penn Engineering (SEAS), to fully capitalize on the unique opportunities intrinsic to Penn, by expanding the role of SEAS in this exponentially growing area of science and medical practice.

The center supports research in the preclinical and translational domains by providing a forum for conceiving interdisciplinary multi-investigator projects for extramural funding and via funding intramural CT3N pilot grants. In addition, the center encourages translational focus and development opportunities by engaging regional biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies as corporate members of CT3N.

CT3N organizes an annual Symposium that brings together internal and external experts in drug delivery and targeting as Invited Speakers, members of panel discussions and attendees from PENN, CHOP and regional research institutions. Symposia feature the Keynote lectures given by internationally acclaimed academic and industrial leaders and pioneers.

Through the academic year, the CT3N Seminar Series features monthly talks given by researchers from academia and industry across the country and abroad. CT3N also sponsors invited talks in other seminar series at PENN. Invited speakers spend a whole day meeting CT3N faculty and trainees. Meeting slots for other CT3N members may be arranged upon request.

Educational functions of CT3N include the graduate course CBE/PHRM-564 on Drug Delivery, a course on targeted imaging agents, seminars and weekly journal club for students, post-docs, clinical residents and fellows. CT3N faculty members give work-in-progress presentations on a rotating basis, keeping colleagues and trainees abreast of their research.

Membership & Thematic Portfolio

CT3N membership consists of clinical and basic science researchers from all major regional academic centers and from biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, providing an empowering cross-institutional and academia/industry interface.

Drug targeting spans a broad range of disciplines: pharmacological and pharmaceutical sciences, basic biomedical sciences, biotechnology, molecular and chemical bioengineering, chemistry, nanotechnology, imaging, and material sciences. Medical interests and expertise of CT3N researchers include oncology, cardiovascular, metabolic and genetic diseases, neurological diseases and stroke, pulmonary and hematological maladies, among others.

Principal Investigators of about thirty labs in the CHOP and PENN’s Schools of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Dental Medicine, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Applied Sciences are members of the Center. Faculty members from Drexel University, Temple University, Thomas Jefferson University, Princeton University, Lehigh University, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and University of Delaware participate in activities of the Center as associate academic members. CT3N members engage in collaborative studies in systems ranging from in silico and standard cell cultures to microfluidics, animal studies, preclinical studies in human organ models and clinical studies.

The thematic portfolio includes:

  • Targeted Biological Agents (Biologics):  i) the identification and use of antibodies, peptides, aptamers and other biological agents as affinity ligands that specifically bind target biomarkers; ii) the design of supramolecular conjugates, recombinant fusion constructs, protein-based drug scaffolds for use in therapy or imaging; iii) the use and re-purposing of viruses, viral capsids, or other gene/drug delivery vehicles found in nature; (iv) cell-based therapies that involve the re-directing cells to a desired target.
  • Polymeric and Synthetic Nanoplatforms: i) the design and effective implementation of polymeric platforms and matrices for carrying cargo (e.g. drugs, imaging agents, protein therapeutics, genes); ii) the design of polymeric and inorganic nanocarriers with controlled geometry, affinity, magnetic and other features; iii) the identification and use of synthetic materials that are biodegradable, anti-fouling, and biocompatible; iv) the development of bioconjugation techniques for the controlled attachment of biological agents to synthetic/polymeric agents.
  • Computations Analysis of Drug Delivery: i) analysis of the influence of physical and other factors in modulating dynamic interactions of targeting agents with targets; ii) the exploration of mechanisms for the permeation of biological barriers including cellular membranes and organelles.
  • Contrast Agents: i) the design of advanced probes for molecular and functional imaging using PET/SPECT, CT/PET, MRI and optical modalities; ii) methods to combine imaging and therapeutic agents into a single platform (i.e. theranostics).
  • Imaging and Targeting Devices: (i) the development of methods specifically to deliver targeted agents to pathological sites using radiation, magnetic and physical forces; ii) the development of methods to image targeted probes in cell culture, animal and human studies.
  • Benefit/risk ratio of targeted therapeutics: The development of an understanding of (i) the relationships between the properties of above agents and their adverse effects; ii) the mechanisms by which these effects occur; (iii) methods to avoid/ defuse these adverse effects; iv) the testing and optimization of benefit/risk ratios to clinically acceptable level.