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The Institute of Biomedical Engineering

Mr

Joel Balkaran SB

DPhil Student

Biography

Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, Joel graduated cum laude from Harvard College (Cabot House '20) with an SB in Engineering Science. During his time there, he conducted research in the laboratory of Prof. Samir Mitragotri under the supervision of Dr. Eden Tanner, culminating his his senior thesis investigating the use of ionic liquids for transdermal delivery of hydrocortisone-loaded nanoparticles for sustained atopic dermatitis treatment.

Joel joined BUBBL in October 2020 as a DPhil student, working under the joint supervision of Profs. Robert Carlisle and Constantin Coussios. He aims to optimize the combination effect of solvents and cavitation nuclei in ultrasound-assisted transdermal delivery of vaccines. His program is funded by the All Souls Hugh Springer Memorial Fellowship, and he is a member of St. Edmund Hall.

ORCID

Awards and Prizes

Joel's DPhil at Oxford is funded directly by the Hugh Springer Memorial Scholarship from All Souls College.

His previous undergraduate studies at Harvard College was funded by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, and during his time there he was awarded various research scholarships including the Harvard College Research Program fellowship and the Program for Research in Science and Engineering fellowship. He was also named a Practical Research Experience Program fellow at the Technical University of Munich in the summer of 2019.

Research Interests

Joel's research focuses primarily on drug delivery applications, especially non-invasive transdermal delivery. His investigations have covered a broad range of technologies - from nanoparticle fabrication for tuned drug release to the use of unique solvents like ionic liquids to facilitate delivery to the skin.

His DPhil at Oxford centers on fabricating biodegradable sonosensitive cavitation nuclei (PCaNs) that can be exposed to low-intensity focused ultrasound to facilitate transdermal drug and vaccine delivery. His project aims to provide a compelling vaccine administration alternative to needle-based injections for vaccinations, through the pain-free, quick, and non-invasive means of cavitation-induced delivery. Woefully inadequate supplies of vaccines have proven to be a problem in dealing with global health crises, and thus a novel method that can deliver the vaccine to an immune responsive organ like the skin can help to address such a crisis more quickly in the future.

Current Projects

  • Micro- and Nano-Scale Cavitation Nuclei Formulation: Designing a biodegradable bubble-trapping particle that can facilitate ultrasound-based drug delivery.
  • Solvent Design: Determining the optimal solvent composition for clinical application of a drug and cavitating particle formulation.

Research Groups

Publications

Journal Papers:

  • Hill, C., Grundy, M., Bau, L., Wallington, S., Balkaran, J., et al. Polymer Stealthing and Mucin-1 Retargeting for Enhanced Pharmacokinetics of an Oncolytic Vaccinia Virus, Molecular Therapy Oncolytics, June 2021.
    · Qi, Q., Duffy, M., Curreri, A., Balkaran, J., Tanner, E., Mitragotri, S. Comparison of Ionic Liquids and Chemical Permeation Enhancers for Transdermal Drug Delivery, Advanced Functional Materials, November 2020
    · Tanner, E., Curreri, A., Balkaran, J., Selig-Wober, N., Yang, A., Kendig, C., Fluhr, M., Kim, N., Mitragotri, S. Design Principles of Ionic Liquids for Transdermal Drug Delivery, Advanced Materials, July 2019

Theses:

  •  Balkaran, J., Ionic Liquid-Nanoparticle Sustained Delivery of Hydrocortisone for Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis. SB Bioengineering Capstone Thesis, published to Harvard Archive, April 2020.

Conference Papers:

  •  Lyons, B., Hettinga, J., Balkaran, J., et al. Gas-Stabilizing Solid Cavitation Nuclei for Systemic or Transdermal Ultrasound Enhanced Drug and Vaccine Delivery and Immunomodulation. Acoustical Society of America, Seattle, November 2021
  •  Balkaran, J. Deep Eutectic Solvents for Improved Allergen Testing. TUM Summer Research Symposium, August 2019
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