The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the cause of a deadly disease known as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which still affects 38 million people worldwide, 1.2 million of which in the United States alone. Because of biological factors, socioeconomic inequities, and stigma, women are more at risk of acquiring HIV compared to men. Furthermore, the toxicity of some microbicides and the low therapeutic adherence caused by currently used vaginal dosage forms decrease the effectiveness of women-controlled strategies to prevent HIV acquisition. To address gaps, I am exploring new female-controlled therapeutic approaches to prevent HIV acquisition and promote patient adherence to therapy. These approaches are based on mucins, glycosylated proteins that physiologically protect human mucosae in contact with the external environment, and biomaterials that have a little impact on the physiological homeostasis. The final goal will be to expand the use of these new technologies and address different medical needs.
Luciana is a Ph.D. candidate at the Graduate School of Engineering in the Biomedical engineering department. She expects to complete her studies in August 2023. While pursuing her MSc-BSc in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technologies (University of Pavia, Italy), Lucian was selected by her alma mater for a two-month internship program at the University of Cambridge (UK) in the group headed by Prof. B. Jones, whose research focuses on constructing functional pharmaceutical materials through supramolecular interactions. In addition, she conducted research at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (Germany), in the group of Prof. L. Meinel, focusing on techniques to improve the topical absorption of local anesthetics. During my M.S. in Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs (Italy) Luciana worked as a regulatory affairs trainee at Farmabios, an Italian pharmaceutical company, where she drafted documents pertaining to marketing authorization requests for medicinal products to be submitted to domestic and international regulatory agencies (i.e., FDA, EMA, and European Union Member States).
Current Studies and Future Goals
When asked what she found most meaningful about her field of study, Luciana responded with the following: “I am deeply interested in the social aspects of medicine and healthcare, especially those pertaining to the underrepresentation of women in such fields and the discrimination that women still suffer across the globe in the context of healthcare related services. My professional goal is to channel my passion for science towards technologies that are capable of dismantling barriers that women face in accessing and receiving medical and pharmaceutical care as a result of sex-biases in medicine. Prior to joining Tufts, my research was mainly focused on drug development. However, I have always been aware that only a multidisciplinary approach could have a meaningful impact in the development of innovative, sustainable and user-friendly technologies that can improve therapeutic efficacy. Embarking on a PhD program at Tufts’ department of Biomedical Engineering has allowed me to expand my previous experience in the pharmaceutical field with new expertise on biomaterials. As crucial elements of women’s healthcare are still largely overlooked, a multidisciplinary approach is necessary to tackle these complex issues from different angles and find new and better solutions in drug delivery formats."
When asked what interested her in becoming a TIE Fellow, Luciana responded with the following: “I was particularly drawn to the TIE program because of its interdisciplinary nature. I believe that multidisciplinary approaches are essential to tackle the most pressing issues of the modern age, in both science and policy. The TIE Fellowship is providing me with the opportunity to meet exceptionally bright students with diverse backgrounds, which is an incredibly valuable asset in the context of the effort to achieve a meaningful impact in the development of innovative and sustainable technologies."
After Tufts, Luciana plans to continue working in the research field to answer questions in the pharmaceutical field that hinder the creation of a better and more equal society.
When not doing school work, Luciana loves cooking, baking, and practicing piano.
Favorite food/drink: Bouillabaisse
Favorite Song: Nessun dorma by Aretha Franklin
Favorite place you've seen: Dolphins jumping in the ocean at dawn.