Santiago Correa Echavarria

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Biological Engineering

PhD Candidate, 5th Year

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Hometown

Born Medellin, Colombia – Raised Atlanta, Georgia

Undergraduate institution

Yale University

What sparked your interest in your current field, and what do you love about it?

When I started undergrad I remember listening to Yale’s introductory lecture seminars on iTunes University, where I came across the seminar introducing the still-young biomedical engineering department. Drs. Saltzman and Niklason presented some of their cutting edge work in drug delivery and tissue regeneration, and I was amazed by the implementation of engineering principles to influence biology – it was something I had never come across before. When I went to college I immediately began as a biomedical engineering major, and my interest in the subject grew with each new course and each exposure to the research being done on campus.

Personal research summary

My research focuses on the design of multifunctional drug delivery vehicles for the treatment of ovarian cancer, a complex disease responsible for over 14,000 deaths per year in the the United States. Treatments for ovarian cancer face a consistent bottleneck: frontline therapies like cisplatin and paclitaxel are initially effective, but most patients invariably relapse with drug-resistant tumors. To effectively eliminate these drug-resistant ovarian tumors, a multi-pronged attack may be required. My work aims to develop such multipronged treatments using nanoparticle drug-carriers, which can coordinate the delivery of combination therapies that first lower ovarian cancer’s defenses and then strike it with a lethal dose of chemotherapy. Instead of trying to work around drug resistance, my work seeks to disrupt the pathways that mediate resistance in the first place. These pathways can be selectively turned off using small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which are nucleic acids that block, or silence, the expression of a specific gene. By implementing siRNA against a rationally chosen target, ovarian cancer cells with drug-resistant phenotypes can be reverted to a drug-sensitive state.

Personal interests

I love cooking, photography, audio equipment, and science fiction literature.