Department of Chemistry

Department of Chemistry University of Oxford

Name: Dr Nobina Mukherjee

Group: Hagan Bayley

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Biography

This is my journey from the ‘City of joy’, Kolkata (Calcutta) to the ‘City of the dreaming spires’, Oxford. Both cities are historic; home to world renowned scholars, poets, and scientists. At school I was fortunate enough to have inspiring teachers, who ignited my passion for science. Being academics, my parents were the biggest inspiration and I followed their footsteps into science. But in a house full of chemists, being a biochemist I was the odd one out. I went on to study Biotechnology for my undergraduate course and received a B. Tech. (first class first) from West Bengal University of Technology, Kolkata, India. Following that, I received a TOPMaster’s scholarship from the Dutch Government to pursue a master’s in Pharmaceutical Drug Design at the University of Groningen. There is a saying- ‘Er gaat niets boven Groningen’, roughly translated to ‘Nothing is above Groningen’ literally and figuratively. It is an amazing university city with an old world charm. I had a wonderful experience there, both academically and personally. My journey led me into the world of Biochemistry for my Ph.D. project. I had the opportunity to work on a fascinating project on liposomal drug delivery in the lab of Prof. Bert Poolman. My research focused on converting a bacterial mechanosensitive channel protein into an externally controlled protein, which can respond to light or the pH of its environment, and undergo channel opening. This engineered channel protein was incorporated in liposomes and used for delivering theranostic agents to cancer cells. The cancer microenvironment is usually slightly more acidic than normal tissue. We utilized this feature to passively target the cancer cells with the drug containing pH-actuated engineered liposomes. It was one of the first studies on liposomal delivery of cargo at the cancer target site controlled by an external stimulus. Scientifically it was a very enriching experience and I appreciate the thorough scientific training of the Dutch system. After I completed my Ph.D., my dream was to create an in vitro platform where I could test different theranostic agents targeting cancer.

Current research

A Tissue Engineer in the Department of Chemistry: To realize my dreams, I joined the group of Prof. Hagan Bayley in Oxford as a postdoctoral research associate in 2014. His group was developing a bespoke 3D printing technology to build network systems. With the pioneering ideas and support of Prof. Bayley, our group has progressed to making 3D-printed tissue models.

My current project aims to re-create a 3D in-vitro tumour model. The goal is to build a 3D tumour model with features of the tumour microenvironment as observed in an in-vivo tumour. This would generate a powerful platform for investigating tumour-biology, and screening of therapeutic and diagnostics agents. I have employed 3D-printing and microfluidic technologies for the scalable and reproducible production of microtumours. These microtumours will be used as a platform to select therapeutic agents. Our big vision is to incorporate these technologies in the personalized mode of treatments for cancer patients. In 2018, I received a CRUK (Cancer Research UK) Pioneer Award to further my research in this direction under the guidance of Prof. Bayley. 

A little bit extra

Oxford is a place full of surprises and inspiration for big dreams. I am thrilled at the opportunity to work on exciting topics and turn them into reality step-by-step. I want to combine my knowledge in tissue engineering and targeted drug delivery to do some amazing science and translate the findings to improve people’s quality of life. Outside of science, I am passionate about meditation, yoga and racket sports, which help me to balance my yin-yang. Biking is a passion I picked up in the Netherlands and still enjoy to visit great locations around Oxford.