• The Laboratory for Biomembranes and Drug Delivery Systems

    Our goal is to understand the intermolecular and interfacial interactions of materials, and particularly of self-assembling materials, with the biological milieu, and to combine this knowledge with engineering principles to design successful devices to promote human health. Translational research on testing and optimization of these devices as diagnostics and therapeutics for medical applications is of special significance to our work.

    Our research is focused on  investigating heterogeneous lipid bilayers with a threefold goal: (I) to contribute to the fundamental understanding of the molecular and supramolecular interactions in heterogeneous lipid membranes, of how these interactions affect collective properties of heterogeneous bilayers, and of how these interactions result in assembling materials with interesting properties, (II) to engineer devices/strategies based on these materials that can be tuned to perform specific tasks, and (III) to translate and optimize these devices in the form of lipid-based nanoparticles as carriers of diagnostics and therapeutics for medical applications with special focus on cancer.

  • Research - Laboratory for Biomembranes and Drug Delivery Systems

    Fundamental studies on lipid bilayers

    In bilayer membranes composed of lipid mixtures, the lateral distribution of lipids is not necessarily homogeneous. Actually it almost never is. Depending on intermolecular forces, it is possible to have lateral lipid reorganization resulting in a membrane that appears as a mosaic, as a surface patterned at the nanometer and micrometer scale.

    We systematically alter the balance between electrostatic, hydrogen bonding, and van der Waals interactions among lipids forming heterogeneous lateral assemblies on giant unilamellar vesicles with the aim to understand the major factors driving lipid separation and to potentially design materials with environmentally responsive morphologies.

    Targeted chemotherapy

    We engineer liposomes that respond to different environments by forming heterogeneities resembling ‘lipid rafts’, with the aim to maximize tumor localization and targeting selectivity, and to accelerate drug release for superior tumor control at low toxicities.

    Liposomes with ‘raft switches’ are designed from biophysical principles for pH-triggered binding activity (multivalency) and pH-triggered release of therapeutics.

    Transport limitations in liposomal chemotherapy

    We develop environmentally responsive lipid carriers that aim to increase penetration and homogeneity of chemotherapeutics in vascularized tumors.

    Antivascular alpha-particle therapy

    Alpha particles are short range, high energy particles that efficiently kill cells but are very toxic. Neovasculature targeting lipid vesicles with encapsulated alpha-particle generators are designed to selectively target the tumor endothelium and efficiently deliver lethal doses while sparing the host from corresponding toxicities.

    Translational research

    Optimization of therapeutic outcomes in vivo. Emphasis on toxicity minimization and/or redistribution. 



  • Lab Members

    PI: Stavroula Sofou, Ph.D.

    Diploma, Chemical Engineering, National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Greece, 1994

    Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, Columbia University, New York, NY, 2001

    Postdoctoral Fellow, Medical Physics/Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, 2001-2004

    Associate Professor, Departments of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, 2011
    Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Polytechnic Institute of NYU, Brooklyn, NY, 2004-2010
    Assistant Professor (joint appointment), Department of Biochemistry, SUNY/Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY, 2005-2010
    Associate Director, Center for Drug Delivery Research at Poly/SUNY-Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY, 2005-2010

    Awards and Honors
    American Cancer Society, Research Scholar Grant (2012); Busch Memorial Fund Award, Rutgers University (2011); A. Walter Tyson Associate Professorship Award, Rutgers University (2011); Career Catalyst Research Award, Susan Komen for the Cure (2008); J.D. Watson Young Investigator Award, New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) (2006); Wallace H. CoulterEarly Career Award in Translational Research (2006); NATO Science Fellowship (1999-2001); Columbia University, Ph.D. dissertation designated ‘with distinction’ (2001)

    Graduate Students

    Ana Gomez


    Amey Bandekar


    Charles Zhu


    Michelle Sempkowski

    Undergraduate Students

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    Edward Schall

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    Madaser Saleem

    Shiv Shah

    Bianca Patel

    Recent Alumni

    Arjun S. Adhikari (Stanford University)
    Dr. Ali Alaouie (NYPD)
    Dr Manali Bhagat (Procter & Gamble)
    Min-Yuan (Fred) Chang
    Gittel Gold (City College)
    Dr. Shrirang Karve (Dicerna Pharmaceuticals)
    Gautam Bajagur Kempegowda
    Tamara Khaimchayev (School of Medicine, Stony Brook University Medical Center)
    Judy Kong
    Elina Mamasheva (Mt Sinai Medical Center)
    Dr. Qingshan Mu (University of Leeds, UK)
    Xueling (Ling) Zhao
    Dr. Yueping Zhou

  • Courses

    Transport Phenomena I pdf file

    Engineering Principles of Drug Delivery pdf file

  • Publications

    Journal Articles

    1. A. Bandekar, C. Zhu, A. Gomez, M.Z. Menzenski, M. Sempkowski, S. Sofou, Masking and triggered unmasking of targeting ligands on liposomal chemotherapy selectively suppress tumor growth in vivo, 2012, Molecular Pharmaceutics, 2013, Vol 10, 152-160

    2. A. Bandekar, S. Karve, M.-Y. Chang, Q. Mu, J. Rotolo, S. Sofou, Antitumor efficacy following the intracellular and interstitial release of liposomal doxorubicin, Biomaterials, 2012, Vol 33, 4345-4352

    3. A. Bandekar, S. Sofou, Floret-Shaped Solid Domains on Giant Fluid Lipid Vesicles Induced by pH, Langmuir, 2012, Vol 28, 4113-4122

    4. E. Mamasheva, C. O’Donnell, A. Bandekar, S. Sofou, Heterogeneous liposome membranes with pH-triggered permeability enhance the in vitro antitumor activity of folate-receptor targeted liposomal doxorubicin, Molecular Pharmaceutics, 2011, Vol 8, 2224-2232

    5. S. Karve, A. Bandekar, R.M. Ali, S. Sofou, The pH-dependent association with cancer cells of tunable functionalized lipid vesicles with encapsulated doxorubicin for high cell-kill selectivity, Biomaterials, 2010, Vol 31, 4409-4416

    6. M. Bhagat, S. Sofou, Membrane heterogeneities and fusogenicity in phosphatidylcholine - phosphatidic acid rigid vesicles as a function of pH and lipid chain mismatch, Langmuir, 2010, Vol 26, 1666-1673

    7. S. Sofou, R. Enmon, S. Palm, B. Kappel, P. Zanzonico, M.R. McDevitt, D.A. Scheinberg, G. Sgouros, Large anti-HER2/neu liposomes for Potential Targeted Intraperitoneal Therapy of Micrometastatic Cancer, Journal of Liposome Research, 2010, Vol 20, 330-340

    8. S. Karve, A. Alaouie, Y. Zhou, J. Rotolo, S. Sofou, The use of pH-triggered leaky heterogeneities on rigid lipid bilayers to improve intracellular trafficking and therapeutic potential of targeted liposomal immunochemotherapy, Biomaterials, 2009, Vol 30, 6055-6064

    9. G. Bajagur Kempegowda, S. Karve, A. Bandekar, A. Adhikari, T. Khaimchayev, S. Sofou, pH-dependent formation of lipid heterogeneities controls surface topography and binding reactivity in functionalized bilayers, Langmuir, 2009, Vol 25, 8144-8155

    10. S. Khapli, JR. Kim, JK. Montclare, M. Porfiri, S. Sofou, Frozen cyclohexane-in-water emulsion as a sacrificial template for the synthesis of multilayered polyelectrolyte microcapsules, Langmuir, 2009, Vol 25, 9728–9733

    11. M.-Y. Chang, J. Seideman, S. Sofou, Enhanced loading efficiency and retention of 225Ac in rigid liposomes for potential targeted therapy of micrometastases, Bioconjugate Chemistry, 2008, Vol 6, 1274-1282

    12. S. Karve, G. Bajagur Kempegowda, S. Sofou, Heterogeneous domains and membrane permeability in phosphatidylcholine-phosphatidic acid rigid vesicles as a function of pH and lipid chain mismatch, Langmuir, 2008, Vol 24, 5679-5688

    13. S. Sofou, B. J. Kappel, J. Jaggi, M. R. McDevitt, D. A. Scheinberg, and G. Sgouros, Enhanced Retention of the alpha-Particle-Emitting Daughters of Actinium-225 by Liposome Carriers, Bioconjugate Chemistry, 2007, Vol 15, 2061-2067

    14. S. Sofou, J. L. Thomas, H. Lin, M. R. McDevitt, D. A. Scheinberg, and G. Sgouros, Engineered Liposomes for Potential Alpha-Particle Therapy of Metastatic Cancer, Journal of Nuclear Medicine, 2004, Vol 45, 253-260

    15. S. Sofou and J. L. Thomas, Effects of Oxidation and Reduction on the Membrane Activity of a Cysteine Dimerizable Peptide, Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, 2003, Vol 27, 197-207

    16. S. Sofou and J. L. Thomas, Stable Adhesion of Phospholipid Vesicles to Modified Gold Surfaces, Biosensors and Bioelectronics, 2003, Vol 18, 445-455


    1. S. Sofou and K. Rege, Special Issue on Nanomedicine: Diagnostics, Therapeutics and Imaging, NanoLIFE, 2011, 3-4, iii-iv

    2. S. Sofou and B. Yu, Targeted Radiotherapy of Cancer, Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 2008, Vol 60, 1317-1318

    Invited Reviews

    1. M. Bhagat, S. Halligan, S. Sofou, 2011, Nanocarriers to solid tumors: considerations on tumor penetration and exposure of tumor cells to therapeutic agents, Current Pharm Biotechnology, 2012, Vol 13, 1306-1316

    2. S. Sofou, G. Sgouros, Targeted liposomes for cancer therapy, Expert Opinion on Drug Delivery, 2008, Vol 5, 189-204 

    3. A. Alaouie, S. Sofou, Liposomes with triggered content release for cancer therapy, Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, 2008, Vol 4, 1 - 11

    4. S. Sofou, Radionuclide carriers for targeting of cancer, Int. Journal of Nanomedicine, 2008, Vol 3, 181-199

    5. S. Sofou, Surface-active liposomes for targeted cancer therapy, Nanomedicine, 2007, Vol 2, 711-724

    Book Chapters

    1. S. Sofou, “Responsive Liposomes” in: Drug Delivery in Oncology. From Basic Research to Cancer Therapy, Kratz, F. / Senter, P. / Steinhagen, H. (eds.), 2012 Wiley-VCH

    2. S. Sofou and J.L. Thomas, “Vesicles and Liposomes in Sensor Technology”, in Handbook of Nanostructured Biomaterials and Their Applications, H. S. Nalwa (editor), American Scientific Publishers, CA, 2004
  • Contact

    A post-doctoral position is available at the laboratory of Biomembranes and Drug Delivery Systems at Rutgers University. Candidates with knowledge on biomembranes and drug delivery of chemotherapeutics and radionuclides are preferred. Rutgers University is an EO/AA employer committed to diversity. Women, minorities, and members of under-represented groups are encouraged to apply. Prospective post-doctoral fellows and graduate students may contact Prof. Sofou at: ss1763<at>rci.rutgers.edu