HOW DOES YOUR WORK BENEFIT THE COMMUNITY?

The development of vaccines to prevent and treat infectious diseases has had an enormous impact on human health. Many vaccines are currently administered via large needle-syringe injections into the muscle or under the skin, which is often a painful, inconvenient and tedious procedure. More recent findings show immune responses to vaccines can be improved by administrating them into the skin instead of the muscle, as skin has many immune cells to combat harmful foreign bodies. One of the most promising methods to deliver vaccines to the skin is through hollow microneedles, which are sub-millimetre needle-like structures that can pierce the skin surface to provide direct routes for vaccine delivery in a non-invasive and pain-free manner. My doctoral research focuses on 1) fabricating and optimizing microneedle geometry to achieve targeted injection depths in skin with high repeatability; 2)understanding skin mechanics and microneedle-soft tissue interactions; and 3) testing these microneedles in a number of vaccine-delivery studies against the conventional needle and syringe method.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH WITH YOUR RESEARCH?

At the end of my PhD work, I aim to create a microneedle product that is inexpensive, pain-free, and can deliver vaccines efficiently to the skin. Since skin vaccination also has dose-sparing advantages, this product will allow us to get vaccines to a much larger population on a global level at a very low cost, and more importantly, without the need for medical facilities.

 WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE CAREER GOALS?

I aim to pursue a career in the medical industry as a biomedical engineer to find efficient and cost-effective solutions to treat fatal diseases prevailing our world today.

 WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO STUDY AT UBC?

UBC (University of British Columbia) offered me a project that not only aligned with my research interests but one that is multidisciplinary and dynamic; the ability to work in both science and engineering settings presented a unique opportunity.

HOW DID YOU END UP IN SUCH AN OFFBEAT, UNCONVENTIONAL AND UNUSUAL CAREER?

 Upon completing my masters degree at Waterloo in Chemical Engineering, I was interested in pursuing further studies as a doctoral student in the area of drug delivery.

 WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE VANCOUVER EXPERIENCE SO FAR?

Vancouver offers a balanced combination of city-life and nature like no other place, and there is always something to do and new places to see.

 WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR NEW GRADUATE STUDENTS?

Pick a city, university, a professor, and a research group that will offer you something different and hopefully better than what you had before. Gather as much information as possible to make an informed decision on the research project, its duration, the financial aspects of living in Vancouver, and housing before choosing the right place for your graduate studies.

WHAT DO YOU DO CURRENTLY?

Sahan has been involved in the development and testing of microneedles-based drug delivery technologies for more than 5 years. He received a Bachelor’s in Food Engineering (Guelph), Master’s in Chemical Engineering (Waterloo), and Doctorate in Biomedical Engineering (UBC). A recipient of the renowned Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, Sahan’s expertise range from materials engineering, biomechanics, and microfabrication technologies to biochemistry, biosensor design and point-of-care diagnostic systems. His research interests are in drug delivery, medical device development, and therapeutic drug monitoring.

Sahan is the co-founder at Microdermics. Microdermics is developing a drug delivery system that replaces needles with precision injection to the intradermal space for potential therapeutic dose reduction. We work collaboratively with pharmaceutical companies to unlock the potential of the skin.