Annalisa Tirella


Personal profile


I have established expertise in manufacturing of nano- and micro-technologies for biomedical applications, design and modification of biomaterials, optimisation of physico-chemical and mechanical properties of biomaterials and formulation of nanoparticles. 

My research group, the BioEngineered Systems research group, is highly multidisciplinary and focuses on two  research interests:

1) Formulate nano- and micro-systems encapsualting therapeutics for advanced drug delivery. Current research projects focus on: nanoparticles for targeted delivery to cancer cells (e.g. receptor mediated), nanoparticles for controlled drug release.

2) Design of 3D in vitro systems replicating physiological and pathological charcteristics. Current research projects focus on: biomaterials with controlled stiffness and composition to study cell-material interaction in cancer progression, 3D systems for the release of distinctive biochemicals e.g. protein.

The ultimate aim is to develop high-throughput in vitro systems able to replicate distinctive properties of tissues to better test drug delivery and therapeutic effects.

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Annalisa started her research for the design and manufacturing of in vitro models for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine since her bachelor thesis in Bioengineering at the University of Pisa, developing a microfluidic bioreactor for toxicology drug screening and designing 3D cell laden hydrogel mimicking hepatic biomechanical cues. In 2011 she receive her PhD with the thesis entitled “Development of a modular microfabrication system to engineer complex tissues” at the University of Rome. In 2012 Annalisa joined the Institute of Clinical Physiology of the Italian National Research Council as post-doctoral research fellow, working on a FP7 project aiming at the characterisation of materials to engineer soft tissues. In 2014 Annalisa joined the University of Manchester as research associate, being appointed as Lecturer in Pharmaceutics with the School of Pharmacy (University of Manchester) few months after.

Research interests

As a bioengineer I had the chance to work in different research areas during my career development. My particular research interests now focus on the design, characterisation, formulation and manufacturing of biomaterials for the development of physiologically relevant in vitro models, and development of nano-materials for drug delivery. 

Highlights/Keyworkds: hydrogel, biopolymers, tissue engineering, biofabrication, 2D/3D in vitro models, microencapsulation, nanomedicine, drug delivery

My group

My research group (BioEngineered System) is highly multidiscliplinary, with main focus on biomaterial-based projects for tissue engineering and drug delivery applications.

All research projects focus at the interface of biomaterials and biological matter.

Current group members:

Chen Zhao 

Project title: Characterisation of OA-gelatin hydrogels as 3D in vitro model to study stiffness effects on breast cancer cells

Short Bio: I am a third year PhD student, with research focus on biomaterials mainly. I am developing a library of alginate-based hydrogels to control the resultant stiffness. This will help to engineer in vitro models with controlled stiffness to mimic tumour progression. This will help to study how the stiffness could influence breast cancer cell behaviour.

Keywords: Oxidized alginate, gelatin, Schiff base, stiffness, breast cancer, 3D printing

Twitter: @Huxhsjsoxj



Lekha Shah

Project title: Tumour progression in metastatic breast cancer cell lines: Engineered in vitro models

Short BioI am a cancer biologist working within a multi-disciplinary team of biologists, material scientists, and bioengineers. I am currently interested in developing 3D in vitro models to assess effects of physical properties and tissue mechanics (e.g. matrix stiffness, interstitial flow and shear stresses, pH, oxygen content) on metastatic breast cancer progression. 

Keywords: 3D in-vitro models, Alginate hydrogels, Mechanical forces in cancer biology, Tumour-on-the-chip, Microfluidics.

Twitter: @LekhaShah10

ORCiD: 0000-0001-5533-0988


Xue Bai


Khalsa Al-Husaini

Project title: 3D cancer in vitro models

Short Bio: A first year PhD student, with research focus on the development of biomimetic 3D in vitro prostate models using 3D printing methods. Currently working on the design and characterization of alginate-based hydrogels mainly functionalization of oxidized alginate with active laminin peptides. Also prostate cancer mechanical properties are investigated using micro-CT.

Keywords: 3D in vitro models, Micro-CT, Oxidized alginate, Laminin, Prostate cancer, 3D printing

Twitter: @Husainikh

ORCiD: 0000-0003-3184-9050


Siriwat (Wat) Sukphokkit


Ponpawee (Wia) Pingrajai

Project title: Understanding the imflammatory effect of hyaluronic acid and hyaluronic acid coated nanoparticles in THP-1 macrophages

Leonidas Gkionis

Project title: Manufacturing steps towards standard and highly reproducible liposomes for advanced drug delivery to breast cancer cells

Bushra Almari

Project title: Application of amyloid-secreting cellular systems in the development of preclinical models of relevance to Alzheimer's disease


My teaching covers both material properties and manufacturing knowledge, expanding on design strategies and examples of healthcare applications.

I am currently teaching in the following modules: MED20100, PHAR40400, CHEM30441, BIOL64101.

Prizes and awards

Young Lecturer Award (2014) | Italian Group of Bioengineering

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

Royal Society of Chemistry, Fellow

Royal Microscopical Society, Member

Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society, Member

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

External positions

Research Fellow, Institute of Clinical Physiology

Feb 2013Jun 2014

Lecturer in Biomaterials, Universita di Cagliari

Nov 2012Dec 2013

Research Associate, Universita di Pisa

Oct 2010Jan 2013

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Regenerative Medicine Network
  • Advanced Materials in Medicine
  • Advanced materials
  • Cancer
  • Digital Futures
  • Christabel Pankhurst Institute


  • Nanomedicine
  • drug delivery
  • biomaterials
  • Tissue engineering, Regenerative Medicine
  • 3D in vitro models
  • hydrogels, stiffness
  • microencapsulation


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