Lab Name: University of Manchester

Location: Manchester, UK

Researcher: Professor Kostas Kostarelos


Professor Kostas Kostarelos.
Professor Kostas Kostarelos.

Kostas Kostarelos is Professor and Chair of Nanomedicine at the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences of the University of Manchester. He is leading the Nanomedicine Lab that is part of the Centre for Tissue Injury and Repair and the National Graphene Institute.

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What is your academic background?

I read Chemistry at the University of Leeds and obtained a Diploma in Chemical Engineering and PhD from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London. I carried out my postdoctoral training in a number of different medical institutions in the United States.

How long has the lab been running?

The Nanomedicine Lab started in 1998 as part of the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Cornell Weill Medical College in New York City. The Lab moved to the UK in 2002, initially at Imperial College London (Genetic Therapies Centre) and subsequently to University College London (UCL). The Nanomedicine Lab matured and grew in scope and resource as part of the Centre for Drug Delivery Research at the UCL School of Pharmacy. In 2013 the entire Lab was relocated to the School of Medicine and the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester. We’re now also part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre.

How large is your lab and what levels does it cover?

The Nanomedicine Lab is a diverse mix of scientists from various educational backgrounds - everything from pharmaceutical sciences to neurosurgery. I am very keen to be able to host, train and enthuse medical students with novel technologies and, most importantly, fundamental scientific thinking at a very early stage in their career. The size of a laboratory in the UK is very dynamic, so it changes regularly depending on the funding it attracts. Our Lab currently comprises of two faculty members, two scientists (in Cell Biology and Imaging), eight Postdoctoral Research Fellows and Associates, ten PhD students and four Visiting Researchers (intercalating Medical students and Master’s students).

What are the major themes of research in the lab?

Our research portfolio includes development of nanomedicines based on synthetic and biological nanomaterials. Such work includes: a) development of novel viral and non-viral gene therapy vectors; b) engineering and pharmacological development of carbon nanomaterials (fullerenes, nanotubes, graphene); c) delivery & genetic manipulation of embryonic, progenitor, and induced pluripotent stem cells; d) advanced delivery systems for radio- and chemo-therapeutic agents against cancer; e) descriptive and predictive modelling of a nanoparticle pharmacological performance and f) pharmacological and toxicological profile of novel nanomedicines.

We are engineering delivery systems for drugs, cells, proteins, radionuclides and genes towards therapeutic and diagnostic clinical applications. Great emphasis is placed at the interface between in vitro and in vivo studies and how rationally-designed and engineered delivery systems can be translated into clinically-effective therapeutics and diagnostics.

Graduate PhD student Mr Filipe Rodrigues performing research towards his PhD.
Graduate PhD student Mr Filipe Rodrigues performing research towards his PhD.

How and why did you come to work in these areas?

The need to funnel whatever engineering creativity I had towards understanding and improving the way clinicians manage debilitating diseases. Nanomaterials are just the tools we use.

What has been your highest impact/most influential work?

Our systematic and methodological exploration of carbon nanomaterials (including carbon nanotubes and graphene-based 2D sheets) in biomedicine.

What has been your proudest moment?

Every time a student from our Lab successfully graduates! It is what we do this for. 

What facilities and equipment does your lab have?

The list is very long! Let’s say that we are fully equipped to perform almost any available physicochemical characterisation technique by employing the state-of-the-art instrumentation infrastructure that the University of Manchester offers. I am particularly pleased that our Nanomedicine Lab is designed in such a way to allow capabilities ranging from molecular synthesis to preclinical disease model and medical imaging work without having to move outside our four walls.

Do you think that researchers should also be teachers?

Researchers have a responsibility to be ‘teachers’, in the sense of offering clear explanation of scientific findings and principles. This helps them to communicate their science to their peers, the public that funds them, and, most critically, the younger scientists that they will inevitably need to train and inspire as their career progresses.

Cell biologist Dr Sandra Vranic at the cell culture facility.
Cell biologist Dr Sandra Vranic at the cell culture facility.

How do you measure your own progress as a group?

By our capacity to address and offer possible solutions or, at least, better understanding, of different problems in biomedical and clinical sciences through use of nanotechnology and its tools (including materials).

What is the secret to running a successful lab?

Perseverance but also flexibility and open-mindedness; Capability to focus and contribute to a specialist field but without losing the ‘bigger’ picture; Ability to genuinely inspire younger, talented, commonly smarter-than-yourself people but also direct and manage their energy and free-spirit to result in creative and productive end-points.

What does the future hold for your group - any changes of direction planned?

It is still too early to say! Usually, I need to see when we reach steady-state or feel creatively (or financially) drying up before thinking a significant change in direction. In the meantime, everyone has high expectations for the contributions of the field of nanomedicine in clinical medicine. Let’s see where this journey will take us all and for how long….      

Further Information

Group Website:

Kostas’s Profile:

3 Questions @ the University of Barcelona, Spain [published June 2014]:

Heat-triggered liposomes for cancer @ the BBC [October 2015]:

CNN video on graphene and medicine [10 March 2016]: