Pieter R. Cullis
Life Sciences Institute, Director, NanoMedicines Research Group, UBC. University of British Columbia
Pieter R. Cullis, Ph.D. Director, Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia; Chair, Personalized Medicine Initiative; Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Director, NanoMedicines Research Group, UBC. Dr. Cullis and co-workers have been responsible for fundamental advances in the generation, loading and targeting of lipid nanoparticle (LNP) systems for intravenous delivery of small molecule drugs and macromolecular drugs such as small interfering RNA (siRNA). This work has contributed to three LNP products that have been approved by regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Europe for the treatment of cancer and its complications and six more that have finished Phase I clinical studies. Dr. Cullis co-founded Lipex Biomembranes Inc., Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, Northern Lipids Inc., and, most recently, Acuitas Therapeutics and Precision NanoSystems. In addition, he co-founded and was Scientific Director of the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) 2004-2010. He has published over 300 scientific articles and is an inventor on over 40 patents. Dr. Cullis has received many awards, including the B.C. Science Council Gold Medal for Health Sciences in 1991, the Alec D. Bangham Award for contributions to liposome science and technology in 2000 and the B.C. Biotechnology Association award for Innovation and Achievement in 2002. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2004, received the Leadership Award of the Canadian Society of Pharmaceutical Scientists in 2010 and was awarded the Prix Galien, Canada’s premier prize for achievements in pharmaceutical R&D, in 2011.
My research interests are focused on the roles of lipids in biological membranes and the use of lipid nanoparticle (LNP) systems to deliver drugs. Regarding the functional roles of lipids I am interested in the widespread ability of membrane lipids to adopt non-bilayer structures and the roles of such structures in processes such as membrane fusion, transport processes across bilayer lipid systems induced by ion gradients and the development of increasingly sophisticated model membrane systems that more accurately reflect biological membranes. My interests in LNP drug delivery systems concern first the in vivo delivery of small molecules, particularly drugs used in cancer chemotherapy, with the aim of increasing efficacy and reducing toxicity. In this work the aim is to take advantage of the proclivity of long-circulating LNP systems to accumulate at sites of disease such as tumour sites and sites of inflammation to maximize the benefits inherent in providing local sustained release of drugs at sites of disease. A second area concerns the design of LNP systems that are able to effectively deliver their contents into the cytoplasm of target cells following i.v. administration, thus enabling the therapeutic use of macromolecular genetic drugs such as siRNA, antisense oligonucleotides, mRNA and plasmids for gene therapy. In all, these efforts have led to 10 LNP drugs that have been approved for clinical use or are in clinical testing.