Foundation Welcomes Research Fellow Beata Chertok, PhD


Key Points

  • Dr. Chertok joins the Foundation’s scientific team and shares an appointment at the University of Virginia.
  • Her research involves using focused ultrasound for precise targeting of genetic nanomedicines into the brain.

Beata ChertokBeata Chertok, PhD, joined the Foundation this summer as a Research Fellow. Dr. Chertok’s research focuses on the development of focused ultrasound—activated next-generation genetic nanomedicines. She is interested in developing precision and personalized genetic immunotherapies for brain diseases.

As a part of the Foundation’s scientific team, Dr. Chertok also leads the development of the Foundation’s new gene therapy program and works to advance several of its research initiatives in image-guided drug and gene delivery for cancer and brain pathologies. Dr. Chertok shares an appointment at the University of Virginia (UVA), where she conducts her work in ultrasound-guided gene delivery to brain tumors as a Principal Investigator.

Dr. Chertok brings to the Foundation her unique expertise in materials engineering, pharmaceutical sciences, and focused ultrasound. She studied Biomedical Engineering and Pharmacy in Israel then went on to pursue her PhD at the University of Michigan (UM). For her PhD, she conducted the first-in-kind investigation of magnetically targeted delivery of therapeutics to brain tumors under simultaneous image monitoring with MRI. One of her first-authored reports in this area has accrued more than 980 citations. Dr. Chertok conducted her postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with Professor Robert Langer, a renown pioneer in drug delivery and the founder of the tissue engineering field. During that time, she developed a novel type of microbubbles that can be modulated by both ultrasound and magnetic fields, and researched applications of these materials for gene therapy of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Chertok was a recipient of MIT’s Cancer Center for Nanotechnology Excellence award and was named a Fellow by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIH NIBIB).

More recently, Dr. Chertok returned to UM, where she became an Assistant Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedical engineering. At UM, she established the Remote-Controlled and Image-Guided Therapeutics laboratory, which engineers advanced nano- and micro-platforms for next-generation precision immunotherapies that are guided by noninvasive physical energy, such as ultrasound. Dr. Chertok is particularly passionate about designing materials that have the potential to help people suffering from devastating diseases, such as cancer and neurogenerative disorders. This passion led her to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation.

“The Foundation is known as a driving force in the field of Focused Ultrasound and a catalyst for its clinical translation,” said Dr. Chertok. “When I was working at UM, my colleague and friend Zhen Xu, PhD, who is an expert in focused ultrasound, encouraged me to share my work with the Foundation and pursue this Fellowship opportunity. I wanted to learn more about the translational and clinical dimensions of focused ultrasound to position my work on the translational path. The Foundation is the right place to do that.”

During her fellowship year, Dr. Chertok is pursuing a preclinical research project that is based on her past work in materials engineering. She is seeking to use focused ultrasound for precise delivery of genetic nanomedicines into specific regions of brain. Gene delivery using existing nanoparticles suffers from non-specific gene expression in eliminating organs, such as the liver and the spleen. As a result, it is difficult to localize the effects of genetic therapies to specific target tissues without inducing toxic side effects to healthy organs. Dr. Chertok has developed a new type of nanoparticles that may eliminate this problem. Her nanoparticles spring into action only when activated by focused ultrasound. Dr. Chertok hopes to demonstrate that these nanoparticles can be used as therapy for brain tumors without the side effects typically seen with conventional gene therapies. If successful, this technology could create new minimally invasive and safe therapeutic options for the treatment of brain tumors. In addition, this approach could be further extended to treat a wide variety of devastating brain pathologies, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Dr. Chertok’s appointment at UVA is hosted by the laboratory of Richard Price, PhD, who also researches applications of focused ultrasound to improve drug delivery. This setting will allow her access to the advanced focused ultrasound instrumentation that is available at UVA and to move her science forward.

Dr. Chertok is enjoying her time in Charlottesville. “I like Charlottesville and its intellectual college vibe,” she says. “I have met fantastic people, and everyone has been incredibly welcoming.”