The University of Melbourne
Research Field: Polymer and Material Science
Every year many people are diagnosed with various types of cancer and are forced to have painful treatments such as chemotherapy. The dreadful side-effects of this treatment, including loss of hair and debilitating sickness, are caused by the direct injection of a drug that kills the cancer cells but also kills many healthy cells and tissues on its way to the cancer site.
Georgina’s work investigates a better way to deliver this type of drug by designing a smart capsule to encapsulate the drug. This capsule is specially designed to protect the body from the drug until it reaches the specific cancer site where it then degrades and kills these unhealthy cells.
The synthesis of such capsules is highly challenging, as the capsules must respond intelligently to different biological conditions. To allow specific targeting to cancer cells the capsule must contain specific groups on their surface to circulate in the blood stream for extended periods and then localise specifically in cancer cells. After entering the cancer cells, these capsules must then be capable of degrading specifically based on biological stimuli to release the cancer drug. The capsules she makes are synthesised like a set of Russian dolls where each section meets one of these biological challenges.
Georgina is regularly invited to give presentations to community organisations, eg. Rotary and Zonta, schools and university groups. She received the L’Oreal Fellowship in 2011 and this involves giving an informal seminar to female school students interested in a career in science. This has inspired Georgina to develop a more continuous community engagement and consequently she joined the CSIRO Science in Schools program and currently works with Canterbury Girls High School.
Through the L’Oreal Women in Science Fellowship Georgina also had the opportunity to attend media training and subsequently has had excellent media coverage from a cross-section of the media, including radio, television and print. In 2011, The Age included her as one of Melbourne’s top 100 most influential, inspiring or creative people for that year.