Rebecca Carrier, associate chair of research in the department of chemical engineering, studies interactions between materials and biological systems, with a current focus on the intestinal environment and drug delivery, as well as retinal and gut epithelial repair.

Inside Rebecca Carrier’s Advanced Drug Delivery Research Lab

Inside Rebecca Carrier’s Advanced Drug Delivery Research Lab. How practical problems can turn into one’s life work

Professor Rebecca Carrier’s “gut lab” at Northeastern was born out of a big problem in the pharmaceutical industry.

It was not enough to develop a new active drug compound to bring a new cure to the market. Each drug needed a unique formulation that would allow the body to dissolve and absorb it, but there was no easy way to come up with such a formula in each case.

“One problem I saw as a formulation scientist was that a lot of what we did was trial and error,” says Carrier, associate chair for research in the chemical engineering department, professor of chemical engineering with affiliations in bioengineering and biology.

Usually, people prefer to take drugs orally rather than via an injection. But many drugs have very low solubility in the gastrointestinal tract or they don’t pass across the intestinal wall. Therefore, they can’t be delivered orally. Because of that, pharmaceutical companies sometimes abandon developing a drug because there might not be enough market interest for it otherwise.

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Photo by Matthew Modoono/ Northeastern University

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