ChE Professor and Chair Thomas Webster Featured in Boston Magazine for Research on Zika

Thomas Webster, Professor and Department Chair, Chemical Engineering and Art Zafiropoulo Chair in Engineering, is featured in Boston Magazine for his innovative research in fighting Zika with nanotechnology.

With grim warnings from the CDC and the Summer Olympics occurring in virus affected Rio de Janeiro this August; Zika is on the forefront of everyone’s minds. Originally, Zika posed a threat to countries outside of the US, but with cases in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the threat hits close to home.

Thomas Webster is using nanotechnology to fight Zika. With advanced research in both detection and treatment, Webster hopes to change how patients overcome Zika and eventually cancer. With his expertise in nanotechnology though his work as the current President of the US Society For Biomaterials, Webster is creating nanoparticles that can attach to the Zika cells, preventing them from multiplying inside the body. Webster’s technique could be ready for clinical use in about five years, if not sooner.

 “They have the E-ZPass for everything in your body,” Webster says of nanoparticles. “That property makes them incredibly exciting [for] delivering drugs in places we never thought we could deliver drugs.”

“By simply attaching them [to the viral cells], we keep them from entering cells, and we keep them from being active to replicate inside of cells,” he explains.

With the new partnership between Northeastern and Colombia’s University of Antioquia, Webster hopes to combine Colombian expertise in tropical plants and their medicinal powers with Northeastern’s expertise in nanotechnology and drug delivery.

“We partnered with them to use their proteins, put them in our nanoparticles, and now we have a good system where we can deliver these entities that could help keep the virus from spreading inside a person,” Webster remarks.

For more information, visit:

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering