Dr Ioanna Mela
I am looking forward to join the fellowship at Emmanuel: Having been a PhD student at the College, and later a Bye-Fellow, this very much feels like coming back home. I am excited to be involved with teaching in the College again, and this will initially involve teaching Pharmacology to medical students.
Beyond my work, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, good food, (a lot of) coffee, going to concerts, exhibitions and dance performances. While studying in Cambridge I was the treasurer of the Ballet Club, but my ballet days are now behind me!
My research focuses on DNA nanotechnology and how it can be used to deliver antimicrobial drugs directly to bacterial targets, and in that way, potentiate their action.
I studied Chemical Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, and while an undergraduate I undertook a student placement at Unilever Corporate Research at Colworth, where I learned how to use an Atomic Force Microscope. I was fascinated by the technique, and this led me to pursue a PhD in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge, with Professor Robert Henderson. While working towards my PhD and through a collaboration with Professor Hiroshi Sugiyama at Kyoto University, I was introduced to DNA nanotechnology, and how DNA, apart from a molecule crucial for all life on the planet, can also be used as a versatile building material, with which one can produce functional nanostructures. I worked on this area during a Research Associate appointment at the Department of Pharmacology, combining it with high-speed Atomic Force Microscopy and in 2018 I moved to the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge as a Research Associate.
There, I developed state-of-the-art correlative atomic force microscopy with super-resolution microscopy platforms, with a focus on visualising biological specimens. In parallel, I explored further my interest in DNA nanotechnology and started building my independent research career. I designed and synthesized DNA nanostructures that can specifically target bacteria while carrying active antimicrobials, and showed that this method of delivery can potentiate existing antimicrobials, making it a relevant tool in the battle against antibiotic resistance. This work has led to my recent award of a Royal Society University Research Fellowship that will allow me to further this research direction, which brings together my expertise in engineering and pharmacology.