Yun Fang,PhD receives grant to develop nanoparticle treatments for vascular disease

Yun Fang, PhD, has received a 7-year, $5.6-million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to develop nanoparticle treatments for diseased blood vessels. The grant is an R35 Emerging Investigator Award from the NIH, designed to promote scientific productivity and innovation by providing long-term support and increased flexibility to researchers.

Fang, an Associate Professor of Medicine (Section of Pulmonary/Critical Care), studies how cells sense and convert environmental mechanical stimuli into biological signals and develops new nanomedicine approaches that target disruptions in these systems that lead to vascular disease. Vascular diseases, or conditions affecting blood vessels, are the leading cause of death and disease for men and women across racial and ethnic groups. One-third of all deaths worldwide is due to cardiovascular complications, including heart attack and stroke. The COVID-19 pandemic further underscored the unmet medical need for new vascular treatments, as vascular damage in the lungs is a major cause of death in critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Current vascular therapies mainly treat risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, but not the diseased blood vessels themselves. Fang’s new project proposes a paradigm shifting strategy to develop novel vascular therapeutics employing targeted nanoparticles to deliver genetic materials, such as DNA and RNA, to diseased blood vessels. His team has laid much of the groundwork for developing multidisciplinary knowledge, technologies, animal models, and human studies to establish vascular nanomedicine, including new targeted nanoparticles to deliver messenger RNA or genome editing tools specifically to inflamed blood vessels, effectively treating cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases in animal models.

This prestigious award from NHLBI, one of the first awarded to a UChicago faculty member, is expected to accelerate the development of novel precision nanomedicine strategies for future tailor-made vascular therapies.

“I am immensely grateful for this award from NIH which recognizes a unique opportunity to address a major knowledge gap in vascular biology and an uncharted territory in vascular medicine,” Fang said.  “’Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched,’ the motto of the University of Chicago, inspires us every day to look for new ways to combat vascular disease”.


Originally reported in BSD News, 6/21/2022