May 9, 2017
Congratulations to Rui Kuai, who won the 2017 AAPS Innovation in Biotechnology Award.

Rui Kuai, a fifth year pharmaceutical sciences PhD candidate, has been named the winner of the 2017 American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists Innovation in Biotechnology Award. Mr. Kuai was recognized for the paper he co‐authored with Lukasz Ochyl, pharmaceutical sciences PhD candidate, Anna Schwendeman, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and James Moon, John Gideon Searle Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, entitled Designer Vaccine Nanodiscs for Personalized Cancer Immunotherapy. The award is intended to recognize and promote the achievements of individuals that demonstrate innovation in the area of Biotechnology.

Mr. Kuai presented details from the paper at the 2017 AAPS National Biotechnology Conference last week. “Overall, our approach offers a powerful and convenient platform technology for patient-tailored cancer vaccines,” said Rui. “We are basically educating the immune system with nano-vaccines containing patient-specific tumor antigens so that immune cells can attack cancer cells in a personalized manner. High-throughput DNA/RNA sequencing technologies have allowed for the identification of patient-specific tumor neoantigens, which allows us to create more personalized cancer vaccines,” continued Rui. “Through our research, we have developed a novel vaccine nanodisc technology that can elicit exceptional levels of T-cell responses against tumor neoantigens. We have had initial success using nanodiscs to deliver customized therapeutic vaccines for the treatment of multiple murine tumors, such as colon tumors and melanoma. In these tumor models, our vaccine nanodiscs potently inhibited tumor growth and even eliminated established tumors when combined with immune checkpoint blockers. These findings represent a new powerful approach for cancer immunotherapy and suggest a general strategy for personalized nanomedicine.”

“It’s a great honor for me to get this innovation award. I am really grateful to my advisors who give me tremendous help and other people who generously contributed to this work,” Rui added. “This award also encourages me to further explore in the field and design better nanomedicines in the future.”

The paper, Designer vaccine nanodiscs for personalized cancer immunotherapy, was published December 26, 2016 on the Nature Materials website.