A 2019 United Nations report warned of the consequences of failing to address rising antimicrobial resistance including a catastrophic health and economic toll. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that we are now in a “post antibiotic era” in which common infections are lethal due to rising antimicrobial resistance. Microbes inherently evolve resistance mechanisms over time, the rates of which can be exacerbated by frequent use of broad-spectrum antimicrobials and prolonged exposure. Compounding this issue is the lack of discovery of new antimicrobial agents. In this talk, I will describe our recent work on developing smart materials, which may effectively treat microbial infections while potentially reducing development of resistance. I will specifically discuss the development of hydrogel dressings, multilayered coatings, and new liposomal formulations for treatment of localized and systemic infections. We have formulated highly tunable synthetic and natural polymer-based hydrogels and films for the encapsulation and release of antibiotics and antifungals in response to microbial infections. These materials exhibit a range of drug release behaviors (e.g., triggered-, swelling-, and diffusion-based release) and have demonstrated promising antimicrobial efficacy. I will also describe some of our work on using biomaterials approaches to detecting microbial infections including stimuli-responsive color changing molecules.
Anita Shukla is an Assistant Professor of Engineering and a member of the Center for Biomedical Engineering at Brown University. Professor Shukla's research focuses on designing responsive and targeted biomaterials for applications in drug delivery and regenerative medicine. She is particularly passionate about using these materials for treating infections. Professor Shukla is the recipient of several national and university honors and awards for both her research and teaching, including a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) awarded in 2019, an Office of Naval Research Director of Research Early Career Grant, and a Brown University Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Prior to joining Brown in 2013, Professor Shukla was an NIH Ruth Kirschstein postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Bioengineering at Rice University. She received her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011 as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. Professor Shukla also received a Master's of Science in Chemical Engineering Practice from MIT. She received her Bachelor's of Science at Carnegie Mellon University in 2006 with majors in chemical engineering and biomedical engineering.