Olivia Merkel, Professor of Drug Delivery in the Department of Pharmacy at LMU, has been funded by a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant since 2014. The pharmacist has now received a proof-of-concept grant to support this work. . With this programme, the ERC helps researchers translate their results into practice.
Olivia Merkel conducts research in the area of novel nano-delivery systems for targeted local drug delivery. Its main objective is the therapeutic application of short RNA segments capable of silencing genes involved in the pathogenesis of certain cell types.
In her ERC project “Novel Asthma Therapy”, the pharmacist is working on the development of better asthma therapies based on siRNAs, which can interrupt several immune cascades. Due to the poor stability and high immunogenicity of RNA, conventional RNA drugs can generally only be used for limited indications. In addition, RNA nanoparticles accumulate in the liver and do not reach other organs well. Merkel succeeded in overcoming these drawbacks by developing RNA nanocarriers that can be stabilized by means of spray drying, producing a dry powder.
In her new “RNhale” project, Merkel aims to advance the targeted application of powder by inhalation and improve storage and transport conditions by optimizing spray-drying protocols. The project aims to establish proof of concept for the methods and develop a technology platform with the long-term goal of securing licensing agreements with pharmaceutical companies for large-scale implementation.
Olivia Merkel studied pharmacy at the University of Marburg, where she also obtained her doctorate. From 2009 to 2011, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Marburg, before becoming a tenure-track professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Since October 2015, she has been a professor at LMU.