Johnston Research Group
Dr Angus Johnston
Senior Lecturer and ARC Future Fellow
Angus Johnston is a Senior Lecturer and ARC Future Fellow at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. He completed his undergraduate and PhD studies at the University of Queensland, and worked at the University of Melbourne before moving to Monash University in 2013. Angus' NanoMaterials for Biology Group (NanoMB) is focused on understanding the interactions of nanomaterials with biological systems. In particular his group is interested in taking inspiration from nature to develop the next generation of drug delivery vehicles. These drug delivery systems have the potential to limit the harmful side effects of drugs while also protecting them from degradation by the body. Angus is a CI in the ARC CoE in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology and his research program is funded by the ARC and NHMRC. He has published more than 60 peer reviewed papers which have been cited more than 3000 times. He has supervised 7 PhD students who following their graduation have found work in academia, patent law, management consulting and industry.
My group is focused on developing a fundamental understanding of how nanoengineered materials interact with biological systems. The goal of this work is to develop improved methods of drug and vaccine delivery in the field of nanomedicine. Our work falls into three main areas:
1) Developing novel drug carriers that respond to biological stimuli
2) Investigating the targeting, internalization, trafficking and release of drugs from nanoparticles in living cells
3) Developing molecular sensors to understand the local environment that the nanoparticles are exposed to in the cells
In recent years there has been significant advances in vaccine technology to treat diseases such as HIV, flu and cancer. However, a number of these new vaccines are limited in their in vivo activity as they degraded too readily by the body. Encapsulating the vaccine in nanoparticles protects the vaccine from degradation and can target it to specific immune cells. We have developed a new self-assembling polymer system which allows us to control the size and degradability by altering the composition of the particles. We are also exploring molecular cloning techniques to synthesize proteins that self assemble into drug delivery vehicles.
Understanding Cellular Processing of Nanoengineered Capsules
The therapeutic effect of most drugs occurs in specific locations within the cell, so the intracellular fate of drugs is vital. Nanoengineered materials are increasingly being used to deliver novel therapeutics, however the cellular processing of these nanoengineered materials is not well understood. We aim to understand the mechanisms of how nanocapsules enter cells and look at the role that particle size, surface functionality and targeting molecules play in this process. This work will have implications for improved vaccine and gene therapy, particularly for diseases such as HIV and cancer.
One of the main challenges of understanding how nanomaterials interact with cells is determining exactly where the material is located inside the cell. Cells contain hundreds of sub-compartments that have different chemical and enzymatic environments, and understanding what these environments are like is critical to designing materials that will respond in a desirable fashion once they are inside the cell. Our work in this area focuses on developing molecular sensors that can probe the chemical environment inside the cells (pH, redox potential etc), the uptake of nanoparticles and their trafficking to specific locations in the cells.
Recent Significant Publications
1. Liu, H.; Johnston, A. P. R. "A Programmable Sensor to Probe the Internalization of Proteins and Nanoparticles in Live Cells" Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 52: 5744-5748, 2013.
2. Mintern, J. D.; Percival, C.; Kamphuis, M. M. J.; Chin, W. J.; Caruso, F.; Johnston, A. P. R. "Targeting Dendritic Cells: The Role of Specific Receptors in the Internalization of Polymer Capsules" Adv. Health. Mater. 2013, 2, 940.
3. Johnston, A. P. R.; Kamphuis, M. M. J.; Such, G. K.; Scott, A. M.; Nice, E. C.; Heath, J. K.; Caruso, F. "Targeting Cancer Cells: Controlling the Binding and Internalization of Antibody- Functionalized Capsules." ACS Nano 2012, 6, 6667.
4. Johnston, A. P. R.; Such, G. K.; Ng, S. L.; Caruso F. "Challenges facing colloidal delivery systems: From synthesis to the clinic" Curr. Opin. Colloid Interface Sci. 2011, 16, 171.
5. Kamphuis, M. M. J.; Johnston, A. P. R.; Such, G. K.; Dam, H. H.; Evans, R. A.; Scott, A. M.; Nice, E. C.; Heath, J. K.; Caruso, F. "Targeting of Cancer Cells Using Click-Functionalized Polymer Capsules." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 15881.
Full publication list:
Major Collaborating Laboratories: Dr Bim Graham, Dr Justine Mintern (University of Melbourne), Prof Rob Parton (University of Queensland), Dr Georgina Such (University of Melbourne) Dr Natalie Trevaskis.
Post Docs: Dr Christina Cortez, Dr Daniel Yuen
Research Assistants: Ewa Czuba, Sarah Mann
PhD Students: Laura FitzGerald, Haiyin Liu, Adelene Wong, Elton Wong
Current Major Funding
ARC CoE (CE140100036): Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology (2014-2020)
NHMRC Project Grant (1062549): Understanding the cellular processing of nanoparticles for improved therapeutic outcomes (2014-2016)
ARC Future Fellowship (FT110100265): Bridging the Interface between Nanoengineered Materials and Biological Systems (2012-2015)