María García Díaz

María García-Díaz holds a PhD cum laude in Chemistry from IQS School of Engineering. She did predoctoral research stays at the Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School in Boston (USA), the University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Madrid. In 2013, she joined the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Copenhagen as postdoc and Project Leader in the EU IMI project “Collaboration on the Optimization of Macromolecular Pharmaceutical Access to Cellular Targets – COMPACT”. Her research has been focused on drug delivery of molecules and macromolecules and in vitro models for oral delivery. In July 2016, she joined the Biomimetic systems for Cell Engineering, group lead by Elena Martinez at IBEC.

Group: Biomimetic systems for cell engineering
Supervisor: Elena Martínez
Project: Engineering a biomimetic 3D intestinal model for advanced drug screening

The drug discovery community has identified the critical need of new approaches for improving predictability of efficacy and toxicity in humans at early stages of drug development since over 80% of the drugs candidates fail before reaching Phase III. The current standard models for drug permeability early screening still rely on two dimensional (2D) static cell cultures, such as the Caco-2 cell monolayer model. Such models have known limitations, including the lack of the three-dimensional (3D) tissue-like cellular microenvironment, the lack of other types of cells (e.g. mucus-producing goblet-cells) or the physical forces experienced during normal gut function.

This project will advance the current standard models for assessing intestinal drug absorption by integrating the 3D villi-like architecture of the small intestine, the mucus lining the intestinal epithelium, and the dynamic environment experienced in the lumen, into a fully automated device. Specifically, the prototype consists on a co-culture of enterocyte- and goblet-like cells onto a 3D hydrogel construct that resembles the villi structure, integrated into a flow chamber. This device will allow the study of the effect of multiple factors such as the intestinal fluid composition or the shear stress on the cell behavior. The proposed device will also incorporate a direct measurement of the trans-epithelial resistance, which will monitor on real-time the epithelial barrier integrity. This platform will open new areas of research on drug testing, replacing animal models and reducing health and economic risks of clinical tests, also contributing to the development of improved classes of therapeutics for oral administration.