Associate Professor Susan Hua

Associate Professor Susan Hua - researcher in therapeutic targeting
Scholarship
2018 Scholarship
Scholarship
2017 Scholarship
Project Grant
2016 Project Grant
HMRI Award for Early Career Research
2015 HMRI Award for Early Career Research
Project Grant
2015 Project Grant
Project Grant
2015 Project Grant
Project Grant
2014 Project Grant

What are your research interests?

My research interest is in therapeutic targeting – using nanotechnology to make existing and new medicines work better and with fewer side effects and toxicity. Essentially, I’m interested in designing and manufacturing carriers or “vehicles” that I can load these medicines into, and then modify the vehicles to act like a GPS to direct the cargo to the site of disease. This allows the development of safer and more effective medications and diagnostic tools.   

I am particularly interested in using nanotechnology to improve the way we treat:

  • Acute pain (e.g. sprains, strains and post-surgical)
  • Chronic pain (e.g. arthritis and neuropathic)
  • Gastrointestinal diseases 
  • Reproductive pathologies
  • Skin conditions
  • Burns and infections
  • Cancers 

Why did you get into research?

I started my working career as a clinical pharmacist, where I saw so many of my patients experiencing awful side effects from medicines that were actually helping to treat or manage their condition, such as patients with cancer or chronic pain. I believed that there had to be a way we could improve these therapies. That’s when I realised that if I wanted to help make a change, I needed to become involved in research. 

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

To improve the way we treat patients through designing medicines and diagnostics that are better at specifically targeting the site of disease – in this way we are able to increase their effectiveness and significantly reduce the risk of side effects and toxicity. The goal would be to develop new therapies that act like a “magic bullet” for specific diseases or sites in the body.

Biography

Associate Professor Susan Hua is a registered clinical pharmacist, academic and researcher at the University of Newcastle and HMRI. As a hospital pharmacist, Associate Professor Hua has seen first-hand how many of her patients experience serious side effects from medications that are actually helping to treat or manage their condition. This includes patients with cancer, chronic pain, burns, infections, and rheumatological conditions. Current medications mostly distribute drugs to both target and non-target tissues and cells, which means they can also damage healthy cells and/or severely affect the quality of life of patients. This spurred her to pursue a PhD in the field of neuroscience and nanotechnology at the University of Queensland. 

Associate Professor Hua has become a leader in the field of therapeutic targeting and translational nanopharmaceutics. She has independently established the first translational nanopharmaceutics laboratory and research program in the Hunter, and has built strong collaborations with other major research groups locally and around the world. Her research expertise covers the areas of advanced pharmaceutical formulation, in vitro cellular studies and preclinical in vivo animal studies. This expertise provides a solid foundation to formulate and evaluate new systems to deliver drugs to the body and apply them to specific diseases. 

Associate Professor Hua is particularly interested in using nanotechnology to study novel mechanistic pathways, as well as to develop more efficient therapeutic delivery systems. This essentially means developing more effective and safer medications and diagnostic agents through loading bioactive compounds and imaging agents into “vehicles or carriers”, which are then modified to allow specific targeting to the site of disease. This technology is important to allow compounds to bypass biological barriers that would otherwise degrade or hinder their accumulation at the target site. This allows maximum targeting efficacy with lower doses and frequency of doses, as well as reduced side effects and toxicity. 

A number of her key projects are focused on translational pain research in the areas of peripheral analgesia and inflammation, an area in which she has established important laboratory models of acute and chronic pain at the University of Newcastle.

Associate Professor Hua has generated in excess of $1.4 million in research funding over the past 5 years. Highlights include successful NHMRC funding, a GAPPS international grant, the Pharmacy Research Trust of NSW grant, and funding from the Rebecca L. Cooper Medical Research Foundation. The majority of Associate Professor Hua’s projects are translational and are currently under IP commercial in confidence stages. These projects have all applied the use of nanotechnology across a number of research disciplines. Among her outcomes are a targeted drug delivery system for delivering therapeutics specifically to the uterus (collaboration with HMRI Mothers and Babies Research Centre), along with new delivery models for drugs that target inflammatory cells in the gut (collaboration with AGIRA), and novel treatments for pain. 

Associate Professor Hua has established a productive publication track record, having first or senior authorship positions on over 80% of her publications. Her research has also led to invitations to speak at various conferences/symposiums both locally and internationally. She is an editor for Frontiers in Science – Neuropharmacology, a member of the NHMRC Research Translation Faculty, and an active external reviewer for grants and publications in the field of pain, pharmaceutics, and inflammation.

In 2015, Associate Professor Hua was awarded the HMRI Award for Early Career Research, highlighting her significant and valued contribution to the research community. 

Specialised / Technical Skills

  • therapeutic targeting
  • targeted drug delivery
  • drug delivery
  • nanoparticles
  • nanomedicine
  • nano-delivery systems
  • liposomes
  • active targeting
  • passive targeting
  • nanopharmaceuticals
  • nanotechnology
  • pharmaceutics
  • pharmacology
  • translational
  • therapeutics
  • diagnostics
  • preclinical studies
  • inflammation
  • acute pain
  • chronic pain
  • pain
  • opioids
  • peripheral analgesia
  • arthritis
  • analgesia
  • pain relief
  • pharmacy

Affiliations

  • University of Newcastle – School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy
  • Hunter Medical Research Institute
  • Australian Gastrointestinal Research Alliance (AGIRA)
  • Pharmaceutical Society of Australia
  • Pharmacy Board of Australia

2018

Emlyn and Jennie Thomas Postgraduate Medical Research Scholarship
Scholarship
Researchers:

Ms Yazmin Brown, Dr Pradeep Tanwar, Dr Susan Hua

Description:

The Role of Tumour Microenvironment in Ovarian Cancer

more

2017

Emlyn and Jennie Thomas Postgraduate Medical Research Scholarship
Scholarship
Researchers:

Ms Yazmin Brown, Dr Pradeep Tanwar, Dr Susan Hua

Description:

The Role of Tumour Microenvironment in Ovarian Cancer

more

2016

Mothers and Babies
Project Grant
Description:

Premature birth is the most common reason for a newborn baby to die. Unfortunately, current treatments for premature birth are not very effective. We have developed a mechanism for targeting the delivery of drugs to the uterine tissue, which we believe can be used to prevent or block preterm labour.

more

2015

Award for Early Career Research - Susan Hua
HMRI Award for Early Career Research
Researchers:
A safer way of treating premature labour and post-partum haemorrhage
Project Grant
Description:

The charitable purpose of this grant is to deliver liposomes, coated with an antibody that recognizes the oxytocin receptor (OTR), directly to the muscle of the uterus.

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Achieving Targeted Delivery of Drugs to Uterine Muscle in Women for the Prevention of Preterm Labour
Project Grant
Description:

Premature birth is the most common reason for a newborn baby to die. Unfortunately, current treatments for premature birth are not very effective.

more

2014

Achieving Targeted Delivery of Drugs to Uterine Muscle in Women for the Prevention of Preterm Labour
Project Grant
Description:

The research team has developed a mechanism for targeting the delivery of drugs to the uterine muscle which they believe will prevent or block preterm labour.

more