dr. Pieterjan Merckx (PhD)
Intravenous administration of biologics is burdened by a generally low bioavailability at the active site and systemic adverse events. The BioGelator platform entails a novel class of short, tuneable peptides that self-assemble into a biodegradable hydrogel with a unique shear-thinning behavior. In this way, a peptide hydrogel pre-loaded with a therapeutic cargo is injectable as a liquid at any site of the human body, followed by spontaneous reassembly into a local, biodegradable scaffold. The latter then functions as a delivery depot that is customizable for sustained release of payloads that are specific to the desired application. Importantly, being a platform technology, release kinetics and residence time can be adapted accordingly through rational design of the peptide sequence. Hence, the BioGelator platform can be applied to ultimately enhance the local bioavailability, potency and safety of therapeutics that are otherwise administered intravenously. The BioGelator technology was developed as a collaborative project between UGent (prof. Annemieke Madder & prof. Richard Hoogenboom) and VUB (Prof. Steven Ballet), for which we are currently establishing a valorization roadmap and actively seeking partnerships for clinical implementation.
Pieterjan Merckx graduated from the Ghent University as a MSc Drug Development – Pharmacist in 2015. In that same year, he started his PhD research at the Ghent Research Group on Nanomedicines (GRGN) as a doctoral fellow for FWO Vlaanderen. Promoted by prof. Koen Raemdonck and prof. Stefaan De Smedt, he primarily focused on nanomedicines for local delivery of siRNA in inflammatory lung disease, for which he was granted his PhD title in 2020.
Pieterjan is currently employed as project manager at ChemTech Life Sciences, an IOF business development center of the Ghent University, where he focuses on the valorization and proof-of-concept of the BioGelator platform.