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Rita Serda, PhD

Associate Affiliate Member, Research Institute
Houston Methodist


Biography

Dr. Rita Serda earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of New Mexico in 2006. She held faculty appointments at the University of Texas School of Medicine and the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Houston, TX before becoming a member of Houston Methodist Research Institute in 2010. Dr. Serda was also an instructor at Central New Mexico Community College in the Chemistry Department. While at the Research Institute, Dr. Serda directed the Scanning Electron Microscopy Core and was interim Co-Chair for the Department of Nanomedicine. While at the University of Texas School of Medicine, Dr. Serda was Co-Director for the Scholarly Concentration in Nanomedicine and Biomedical Sciences program. Dr. Serda is also a member of the Research Institute Scientific Council and The Alliance for NanoHealth.

Description of Research

Dr. Serda’s research program has two main focus areas: 

-Therapeutic nano-vaccines to elicit anti-tumor immune responses via particle-based presentation of tumor antigens and adjuvants
-Systemic delivery of therapeutics and imaging agents for cancer applications, with a focus on mechanisms to bypass barriers to transport

Two major obstacles in the field of cancer vaccines are the ineffective delivery of antigens into antigen presenting cells (APCs) and insufficient immune activation. Nanoparticle technology offers tools to simultaneously present tumor antigens and adjuvants, and a means to enhance their uptake and presentation by APCs. Dr. Serda’s research team is creating multi-component particles for controlled intracellular trafficking and presentation of tumor antigens and immuno-stimulatory agents. The particles rapidly accumulate in lymphoid tissue and are avidly internalized by APCs. Research goals include dual-site targeting within single cells for lysosomal and proteosomal delivery of antigens and proteomic analysis of antigens for future development of preventative cancer vaccines. In current studies, oncoproteins, isolated from extracted tumors, are presented to the host in association with agents that stimulate the an immune response in order to elicit tumor-specific immune responses to eliminate residual and metastatic cancer cells.

Barriers to the transport of therapeutics include the vascular endothelium, interstitial and stromal components, cellular membranes, and intracellular organelles. Sequential targeting and delivery of agents is achieved by presentation of agents in carrier particles. We have introduced a new generation of nanocarriers termed Logic-Embedded Vectors (LEVs). LEVs integrate micro- and nano-particles into multi-dimensional functional entities that have the ability to act at multiple levels to bypass biological barriers and deliver therapeutic payloads to desired cell populations and intracellular organelles. Dr. Serda’s research utilizes tissue scanning and transmission electron microscopy to image in vivo transport and cellular interactions with particles.

Areas Of Expertise

Cancer nanovaccines Nano-therapeutics targeting Cellular trafficking
Education & Training

Postdoctoral Fellowship , Department of Nanomedicine and Biomedical Engineering, University of Texas Health Science Center
MS , New Mexico State University
PhD , The University of New Mexico