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June 21, 2021

Gong lands NIH grant to combat antimicrobial resistance

Written By: Tom Ziemer


The World Health Organization has listed antimicrobial resistance as one of the top 10 global public health threats. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.8 million people contract an antibiotic-resistant infection in the United States each year.

Shaoqin (Sarah) Gong
Shaoqin “Sarah” Gong

While antibiotic breakthroughs have slowed dramatically, new treatment strategies are clearly needed to curb this growing problem.

With that in mind, Shaoqin “Sarah” Gong, a Vilas Distinguished Professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and faculty member at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, is leading a new project to develop antimicrobial polymer-drug conjugates. The National Institutes of Health are supporting the project through a two-year exploratory/developmental grant for $421,581.

Gong’s group will engineer a biocompatible cationic polymer, paired with already-approved antibiotics using chemical linkers that respond to specific characteristics of the infected tissues, allowing for disease-specific drug release. Her lab previously reported promising results using a dextran-coated, stimuli-responsive nanoparticle to treat antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

Gong specializes in creating novel materials and devices, including nanocarriers for targeted drug delivery.