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Rice / Department of Bioengineering / People / Faculty / Kevin J. McHugh, Ph.D.
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Kevin J. McHugh, Ph.D.
Portrait of Kevin J. McHugh
Assistant Professor of Bioengineering
CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research
Kevin McHugh Research
Kevin McHugh's primary research interest is in the development of biomaterial microdevices for drug delivery and tissue engineering. His laboratory combines cutting edge manufacturing techniques (e.g. multi-photon 3D printing) at the nano- and microscale with favorable material properties to facilitate device behavior. By using polymers' well-understood structure-function relationships, McHugh aims to rationally design constructs that demonstrate predictable behavior and can be customized for a variety of applications. New research in the McHugh Lab, which is supported by a $2 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), aims to apply the controlled-release technology he has developed for vaccines to cancer immunotherapy for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.
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Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Langer Lab, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, MIT (2014-2019)
Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering, Boston University (2014)
M.S., Biomedical Engineering, Boston University (2012)
B.S., Biomedical Engineering, Case Western Reserve University (2009)
Prior to arriving at Rice, McHugh’s research focused on the use of microfabrication, 3D printing and soft lithography to generate drug delivery platforms aimed at improving global health. As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Robert Langer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McHugh developed two technologies focused on improving vaccination rates in the developing world.
The first created a pulsatile drug delivery platform that could to eliminate the need for multiple injections prior to full immunization. As part of this effort, McHugh and colleagues developed a novel process termed the stamped assembly of polymer layers which enabled the fabrication of polymeric microparticles with a core-shell structure. By controlling the composition of the polymeric shell, he demonstrated the ability to tune drug release from days to months. He then showed that this controlled-release system to achieve an immune response that was more robust after a single injection of microparticles than the response to multiple injections of the antigen. His other postdoctoral project developed an invisible, microneedle-based platform for determining vaccination status in areas of the developing world that lack proper medical recordkeeping.
All of McHugh’s research is focused on developing technologies with the potential to be translated to the clinic. His work has resulted in patents for technology ranging from advanced microscale manufacturing techniques to predictive computational modeling of disease and led to the founding of an early-stage startup company.
The McHugh Lab has three major projects currently ongoing:
Developing microdevices for controlled-release cancer immunotherapy. Although checkpoint blockade has proven extremely effective in some patients, its application is limited to a particular subset of the population who retains an immune-active tumor microenvironment. This project seeks to develop microparticles that can be injected into the tumor to provide prolonged release of therapeutics that reestablish an immune-active environment and thereby increase the number of patients that can be effectively treated using cancer immunotherapy.
Overcoming logistical barriers to vaccination in the developing world using drug delivery strategies. Infectious disease occurs predominantly in low-resource settings where healthcare access is poor. This project aims to develop timed- and targeted-release systems that fit within the current clinical framework in the developing world (i.e. low cost and simple to administer) to reduce deaths due to infectious disease. By delivering antigens and adjuvants at the optimal times and locations, these microdevices have the potential to truncate vaccination schedules, improve vaccine efficacy, reduce the need for cold chain storage and achieve dose sparing.
Engineering complex, self-organizing tissues for replacement and disease modeling. Despite the demand for healthy replacement organs, such as hearts, kidneys, and livers, the production of lab-grown tissues that fully mimic the behavior and function of native organs has yet to be achieved. This project aims to fabricate 3D-printed scaffold patterned with specific functional groups to promote the self-organization of multiple cell types and create functional tissues.
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