dr. Ruben De Coen (PhD)

CRIG member
Ruben De Coen

Postdoctoral researcher - Lab for Biopharmaceutical Technology (Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UGent)
Principal investigator: prof. Bruno G. De Geest

Research focus

In our lab we design different synthetic polymers, i.e. macromolecules composed from a number of identical repeating units, to engineer the immune system to mount an anti-tumour response.
The polymers designed by us can be used to generate anti-cancer vaccines, in order to activate the immune system and to eradicate tumors.
Currently, the field is dominated by monoclonal antibodies or cell-based therapeutics which involve an extreme cost of development and production and only have a very limited shelf life, all of which poses a huge burden on society and health care agencies. Therefore, therapeutic strategies based on more simple synthetic compounds that can engineer the immune system are very attractive.
One strategy we use in the lab is the design of a nanogel vaccine that contains repeating units of mannose on the nanogel surface, which allow for targeted delivery of tumor-associated antigens to dendritic cells, the most important cells of our immune system.
Another strategy we are currently looking into, is the synthesis of antibody recruiting polymers. These molecules can, upon intratumoral injection, decorate the surface of cancer cells and by doing this flag these cells for destruction by antibody mediated cytotoxicity through binding of endogenous antibodies (i.e. antibodies present in large amounts in every individual).This innovative strategy converts healthy human serum into a targeted cytotoxic agent that will mark tumour cells for recognition and subsequent eradication by the immune system.  

Key publications

  • 'Transiently Thermoresponsive Acetal Polymers for Safe and Effective Administration of Amphotericine B as a Vaccine Adjuvant'. Bioconjugate Chemistry, 2017. (PMID: 29172458)
  • 'Well-defined Polymer-Paclitaxel Prodrugs by a Grafting-From-Drug Approach'. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2016 (PMID: 27560940)
  • 'pH-Degradable Mannosylated Nanogels for Dendritic Cell Targeting'. Biomacromolecules, 2016 (PMID: 27231045) 

Contact & links

  • Lab for Biopharmaceutical Technology, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, third floor, Ottergemsesteenweg 460, 9000 Ghent