Dr. Ajay Banga, Ph.D. Students Working on Next Generation Drug Delivery

BangaDr. Ajay Banga, professor and chair of pharmaceutical sciences, is taking drug delivery to a new level. His research will be useful in the design of next generation skin patches, which, unlike current patches (such as the nicotine patch or contraceptive hormone patches), may contain large, water-soluble molecules that do not normally cross the skin.

Dr. Banga and his research team of 10 Ph.D students practice iontophoresis, which is the process of using a small electric field to push charged drug molecules through the skin. The team also uses microneedles that dissolve in the skin to create temporary, micron-sized transport pathways for the drug.

“The FDA has relatively recently issued guidelines to minimize residual drugs in a patch after it has been used for the desired time,” Dr. Banga said.  “This is especially relevant to avoid abuse of controlled substances, but also to minimize the environmental aspect of residual drugs.”  

Dr. Banga and his students are working with industry leaders to design kits that will allow safe disposal of patches and other dosage forms. And he is partnering with pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies to do early feasibility in vitro transport studies across human skin to develop and select formulations that are later taken to the clinic by those companies.

“My students gain valuable experience working on industry-funded projects with tight deadlines, frequent teleconferences, and site visits,” Dr. Banga said. “This enhances their learning in the applied research our laboratory does and serves them well later as most of them join the pharmaceutical industry as formulation or drug delivery scientists.”

Dr. Banga’s research has been funded by companies such as AbbVie, Accutis, Agile, GSK, J&J, Skin Medica, and Pfizer. His group has published more than 270 papers and scientific abstracts on skin delivery systems.

“As a student who came directly from undergraduate research, not out of a pharmacy background, I have learned so much in the past two years through working for Dr. Banga,” said Jessica Scott, a Ph.D. student in College of Pharmacy. “Especially in the past year, I can say that there was a great emphasis on students teaching and mentoring other students within his lab, and that contributed to my development. Dr. Banga has made sure to emphasize that we share in each other's skill building. Through passing on our knowledge, we continue to build the next generation of students within the lab.”