Nanotechnology, The University of Melbourne

Many diseases, such as cancer, are not effectively treated because the drugs are not efficiently delivered to the correct area of the body. To solve this problem, the drug can be encased inside tiny capsules, which can flow around the body seeking out their target – such as cancer cells. The capsules protect both the drug from degradation by the body and the body from any potentially harmful side effects of the drug.

Dr Johnston’s research focuses on making drug-loaded capsules, which are less than one hundredth the width of a human hair. One of his particular research interests is to understand how these capsules interact with cancer cells. The surface of the capsules are covered in molecules that are designed to only recognise and stick to cancer cells. The cancer cells then eat the capsules releasing the drug and killing the cells. This work is already showing promise.

Angus has given a number of public lectures to a diverse range of audiences, including students from middle and secondary schools and to secondary school teachers. As part of Australian Science Week in 2004 he was selected as a “Fresh Scientist”.