Blanka Sharma, PhD
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
University of Florida

BASc in Chemical Engineering, University of Waterloo\
PhD Johns Hopkins University (Biomedical Engineering)
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Cleveland Clinic (Biomedical Engineering)
Director of Research, Cartilix Inc. (start-up based on doctoral work)

Who has been (have been) your mentor(s)?
Jennifer Elisseeff (Johns Hopkins)
Vinod Labhasetwar (Cleveland Clinic)

What is your specific area of Interest?
Biomaterials and targeted drug/gene delivery

What are you currently working on?
In general my lab works on engineering targeted therapies for applications in both regenerative medicine and cancer. Much of our research in these applications converges on modulating immune responses, either to tissue injury or tumor initiation. For a given application, we engineer biomaterials to enable therapeutic cells or molecules to overcome specific physiological barriers so they can successfully reach their tissue target.

What has been the biggest challenge/issue for you lately in your research?
One of the biggest challenges in our osteoarthritis work is longitudinally monitoring drug/nanoparticle biodistribution and disease biomarkers in our pre-clinical rodent models. Almost everything we measure is done in a destructive manner and it can take up to 6 months or longer to know if a therapeutic strategy worked or not.

What project(s) are you looking forward to in the near future?
I look forward to connecting the dots between our cancer work and musculoskeletal work. By working at the intersection of different diseases and tissue types, innovative therapeutic strategies can emerge. For example, biomaterials that present certain immunosuppressive signals found in tumors could alleviate inflammation in joint tissues for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

When not in the lab, what do you like to do for fun?
I like doing outdoor activities (hiking, biking, swimming) with my sons, ages 7 and 9.

What was the last book you read for fun? Would you recommend it?
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Highly recommend it!

What is the most unusual/unexpected item sitting on your desk right now?
I have a plush toy of an arthritic joint! It was a white elephant gift from a lab holiday party. Unusual, yes, but perhaps not totally unexpected?

Watch the  with Dr. Sharma.