Capstone Courses

PoND PhD students must complete one of two capstone courses. Course lectures will be taught live and on-line; lab sessions will be taught concurrently at UVic and at one of the Ontario/Quebec institutions for students in the west and east, respectively.

  1. Nanomedicines in Oncology (Allen). This course will cover a range of topics that pertain to the development and application of nanomedicines in oncology. Students will gain an understanding of the biological barriers to drug delivery in oncology as well as the tremendous heterogeneity in cancer and the challenge this presents for treatment. The concepts of passive and active targeting of nanomedicines will be covered with critical assessment of the enhanced permeability and retention effect. A detailed overview of the most advanced nanotechnology-platforms for drug delivery (i.e. liposomes, block copolymer micelles and polymer-drug conjugates) will be provided with additional discussion of new emerging platforms. The integration of imaging in drug development and development of theranostics and therapeutic-diagnostic pairs will also be discussed. Special emphasis on critical evaluation of scientific literature and pre-clinical/clinical studies will be made throughout the course.

  2. Nanomedicine and Nanomaterials for Imaging (Fortin). Nanomaterials have entered the field of medicine. They are used in a variety of biomedical applications, in particular in biomedical imaging. For instance, gold nanoparticles generate contrast in computed X-ray tomography, whereas iron oxide nanoparticles are frequently used as contrast media in magnetic resonance imaging. Nanoparticles are also being developed to deliver therapeutic treatments (radiotherapy, drug or gene delivery, etc). This course builds on the selection of the main classes of materials that are used as probes and contrast agents in biomedical imaging. A strong focus is put on the synthesis and characterisation of metal-based nanoparticles and inorganic/hybrid materials, in order to better understand their performance as contrast agents and imaging probes in MRI, CT, and nuclear medicine. 

Training Modules

PoND Masters and PhD students must complete three out of the pool of five modules. Lectures will be taught live and on-line; lab sessions will be taught concurrently at UVic and other institutions.

  1. Imaging Methods for Cancer Treatment (Bazalova-Carter). This module will cover the main anatomical and functional imaging methods for cancer treatment of laboratory small animals. The topics will include computed tomography (CT) with its novel applications in combinations with nanoparticle injection (dual-energy CT, x-ray fluorescence CT, x-ray luminescence CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), single-photon emission CT (SPECT), positron emission tomography (PET), and bioluminescence imaging (BLI). The basic physical principles of all imaging methods will be explained, their advantages and limitations highlighted, and practical applications discussed. In addition, a laboratory in microCT imaging demonstrating its strengths and weaknesses will be offered.

  2. Fluorescence Methods for Characterizing Molecular Dynamics in Drug Delivery (Bohne). Fluorescence is a method of choice for many applications because of its sensitivity, where detection at a single molecule level is possible. This module will cover the theoretical background for steady-state and time-resolved fluorescence measurements including anisotropy measurements. These fluorescence techniques can be used to differentiate between different environments based on polarity, rigidity and specific interactions such as hydrogen bonding. 1/3 of the module will be in the lab to familiarize students with the capabilities of fluorescence experiments. Experimental pitfalls will be discussed as well as applications to drug delivery systems.

  3. Manufacturing and Characterizing Polymer Nanoparticles for Drug Delivery (Moffitt). This module will cover representative strategies for manufacturing polymeric nanoparticles of controlled size and morphology, including block copolymer self-assembly, micro-precipitation, and emulsion polymerization, along with methods for incorporating hydrophobic and hydrophilic drugs into these systems for nanomedicine applications. Advantages and challenges of “lab-on-a-chip” microfluidic mixing strategies for drug delivery nanoparticle manufacturing will be discussed along with a comparison of different microfluidic reactor designs. Methods for sizing and structural characterization, including transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and dynamic light scattering (DLS) will be covered, along with analytical methods for characterizing drug loading efficiency and release profiles.

  4. Polymer Synthesis for Drug Delivery (Oh). This module will describe methods of synthesis for polymers used in drug delivery, including step-growth and chain-growth polymerization, living anionic and cationic polymerization, as well as modern controlled/living radical polymerization and ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP). Further, the synthesis and self-assembly of amphiphilic block copolymers for drug delivery applications will be discussed.

  5. Cell-Based Assays for Drug and Drug Delivery Candidates (Wulff). This module will cover the fundamentals of using cell-based measurements to characterize the biological properties of drug candidates (including small molecules, biologics, polymers and nanoparticles). Emphasis will be placed on the practical aspects of carrying out these experiments, and much of the instructional time will be devoted to laboratory work in a tissue culture hood. Desirable properties and benchmarks for transitioning drug candidates to animal-based assays will also be discussed.