Pogostin Receives Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award

Rice bioengineering doctoral candidate, Brett Pogostin, awarded National Cancer Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award

Brett Pogostin

Brett Pogostin, a fifth-year doctoral candidate in bioengineering (BIOE) at Rice, has received a Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). He is one of 24 Ph.D. students nationally to be selected for this fellowship.

“The research focuses on developing novel materials to improve cancer immunotherapy. One of the main challenges of many current cancer treatments is that they aren't targeted, so they spread throughout the entire body when administered. This leads to severe side effects and limited treatment efficacy,” Pogostin said.

The NCI grant funds a total of 6 years of research and comes in two parts. The first, totaling more than $96,000, he receives to fund the remainder of his graduate work at Rice. He will receive the second portion, totaling more than $286,000, to fund four years of postdoctoral work.

He noted that development of checkpoint inhibitor antibodies, which prevent cancer from evading the immune system, has been a major breakthrough, but they are associated with a high rate of severe adverse effects and don’t work for all patients or all types of cancer.

“To address those challenges,” Pogostin said, “We have developed a hydrogel that can be injected directly into a tumor to deliver small molecule chemotherapeutics and checkpoint inhibitor antibodies. By keeping them confined to the tumor with the hydrogel, we hope to reduce side effects by limiting systemic exposure, and improve treatment efficacy by keeping the drugs at high concentrations in the tumor for longer periods of time.”

Pogostin is co-advised by Jeffrey Hartgerink, professor of chemistry and BIOE, and Kevin McHugh, assistant professor of BIOE and of chemistry, and a CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research. Pogostin earned a B.S. in chemistry from Haverford College in 2018.