Elizabeth Nance

Elizabeth Nance

Elizabeth Nance


Elizabeth Nance

Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering 

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Radiology, School of Medicine


Office: 363 Benson Hall
Phone: 206-543-2216
E-mail: eanance@uw.edu 
Lab website: www.nancelab.com



Education and Appointments 

  • Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering, University of Washington, 2015-present 

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, 2013-2015

  • Ph.D., Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Johns Hopkins University (Advisor: Justin Hanes), 2007-2012

  • B.S., Chemical Engineering, North Carolina State University, 2003-2006


Research Interests

  • Disease-directed engineering

  • Nanomedicine-based and nanometabolic-based platform development

  • Systems thinking to assess and model therapeutic barriers in treating disease

  • Biological transport phenomena


Research Philosophy

Despite the significant financial investment we have made, we are still struggling to fully understand and adequately treat the majority of complex diseases. If we look at the brain, neurological diseases account for 13% of the global burden of disease and, as a result, $700 billion a year is spent trying to treat them. Drugs that are used to treat the injured or diseased brain also take about 35% longer to be developed for use in humans compared to drugs for any other type of disease.

Gathering information about a disease is difficult because the disease microenvironment is dynamic, heterogeneous, and highly variable from person to person. Delivering drugs to this environment is also challenging, because the body and the disease are very effective at keeping drugs out, or adapting to minimize the effect of the drug. Many drugs often are also directed at only one aspect of the disease, or are so complex and poorly understood that the interactions within the body can’t be controlled.  In addition, when drugs are administered into the body, very little (usually less than 1%), actually gets to the disease site. To compensate for this, we have to give much more of the drug, or a cocktail of drugs, to have any effect. These both can increase side effects, and harm normal healthy tissue.

Nanotechnology, which consists of small (~1-100nm) but highly tailorable platforms, can be used as both an information gathering tool, and a therapeutic or diagnostic approach. If we ask meaningful questions, i.e which aspects of a disease directly impact our ability to effectively deliver a drug to treat that disease, we can then address these questions with nanotechnology. By using nanoparticles to probe the brain, we learn and quantify how accessible the brain is to a therapy in the context of each disease, and how readily a therapy can move to the diseased cells once in the brain. Based on the limitations the nanoparticle experiences, we can then re-engineer the particle (I’ve termed this disease-directed engineering) to overcome these limitations to better deliver the therapy to the specific disease cells, leaving normal healthy cells alone. This leads to more effective drugs, and fewer side effects. Because there is more specific delivery to the diseased sites, and not to normal healthy tissue, a smaller amount of drug can be used, and there are less side effects.

The disease-directed engineering strategy requires an interdisciplinary effort. We need to combine the information gathered in basic science with the tools available in engineering and deliver them to the doctors treating these diseases in patients. By removing the barriers between these three areas, we can more rapidly learn about diseases and adapt treatment approaches based on basic scientific and patient data in real-time.

This philosophy is currently being applied in the following project areas:

  • Nanotherapeutics for neuroinflammation in autism

  • Enzyme-encapsulated polymeric nanoparticles for glutamate scavenging

  • Nano-based imaging biomarkers of disease severity

  • Systems mapping of biological, physiological, and environmental factors influencing therapeutic delivery to the brain


Undergraduate, Graduate, Postdoctoral, Medical Students and Fellows

We are a new lab, looking for driven, creative individuals passionate about finding ways to better our understanding of, and our technology for, treating complex diseases, specifically those in the brain. If you are interested in working in the Nance Lab, please contact Prof. Nance via email to check for current openings and available projects.


Selected Publications

  • Nance E, Porambo M, Mishra MK, Zhang F, Buelow M, Getzenberg R, Johnston M, Kannan R, Fatermi S-A, Kannan S. Systemic dendrimer-drug treatment of ischemia-induced neonatal white matter injury. J Control Rel, 214: 112-120 (2015).

  • Nance E, Zhang C, Shih T-Y, Xu Q, Schuster B, Hanes J. Brain penetrating nanoparticles improve paclitaxel efficacy in malignant gliomas following local administration. ACS Nano 8(10):10655-10664 (2014).

  • Nance E*, Timbie K*, Miller WG, Song J, Louttit C, Klibanov AL, Shih T-Y, Swaminathan G, Tamargo RJ, Woodworth G, Hanes J, Price RJ. Noninvasive delivery of stealth, brain-penetrating nanoparticles across the blood-brain barrier using MRI-guided focused ultrasound. J Control Rel., 189:123-132 (2014). **Controlled Release Society award for best paper of the year

  • Woodworth G, Dunn A, Nance E, Hanes J, Brem H. Emerging Insights into Barriers to Effective Brain Tumor Therapeutics. Frontiers NeuroOnc, 4:126 (2014).

  • Kannan R, Nance E, Kannan S, Tomalia D. Emerging concepts in dendrimer nanomedicine: translational aspects. J Internal Medicine, 276(6): 579-617. (2014).

  • Balakrishnan B, Nance E, Johnston M, Kannan S. Nanotechnology in cerebral palsy: current developments. Int J Nanomedicine 8:4183-4195 (2013).

  • Nance E*, Woodworth G*, Sailor K, Shih T-Y, Swaminathan G, Xiang D, Eberhart C, Hanes J. A dense poly(ethylene glycol) coating improves penetration of large  polymeric nanoparticles within brain tissue. Sci Transl Med. 4, 149ra119 (2012). **Selected Cover Image

  • Navarette C, Sisson J, Nance E, Allen-Gipson D, Hanes J, Wyatt T. Particulate matter in cigarette smoke increases ciliary axoneme beating through mechanical stimulation. J Aerosol Med Pulm Drug Deliv. (2012).


Selected Honors and Awards

  • Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professorship (2015-2020) 

  • Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 for Science & Medicine (2015)

  • Controlled Release Society Paper of the Year (2015)

  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at Scientific Interfaces Awardee (2014-2019) 

  • Johns Hopkins Center for Nanomedicine Award for Research Excellence (2014, 2013) 

  • Society of Critical Care Medicine Annual Scientific Award Winner (2014) 

  • Anesthesiology/Critical Care Medicine Annual Research Award Winner (2013) 

  • Hartwell Foundation Fellowship (2013-2015)