Lynda Harris

Lynda Harris, PhD


Personal profile


Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutics (2018 - 2022)

Research Director, Division of Pharmacy and Optometry, The University of Manchester (2019 - 2022)

Scientific Co-Director, Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre, University of Manchester, (2018 - 2022)

Editorial board member, Placenta (2019 - present)

Editorial board member, Molecular Medicine Reports (2018 - present)

Associate editor, Molecular Human Reproduction (2014 - 2017)

Mentor, BBSRC Future Leader Fellows (2018 - 2022)

Research interests

Pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction (FGR) are rooted in defective placentation. Whilst potential therapeutics have been identified that enhance placental function and improve fetal growth in animal models, no such treatments are available clinically. Since the receipt of my personal fellowship in 2010, my research has focused on development of methods for affinity-based drug targeting, as a means of focusing drug action within the placenta and minimizing side effects in other maternal and fetal tissues. I have used phage display, combined with in vivo animal screening to identify a suite of peptides that bind to the surface of the placenta and to the uterine vasculature, but do not accumulate in other maternal or fetal tissues. I have now exploited these peptides to create novel nanocarriers for targeted delivery of drugs to the placenta, and novel placental-specific therapeutics. I utilise mouse models and human tissue samples, combined with molecular, cellular and physiological methodologies to advance the field of drug delivery in maternofetal medicine.

My research priorities currently fit within three broad areas:
1) Synthesis and optimisation of peptide-decorated liposomes for targeted delivery of drugs to the placenta and uterine vasculature in rodents, non-human primates and human tissues.

2) Development of novel placental-specific therapeutics e.g. placental-specific microRNA inhibitor-homing peptide conjugates; encapsulation of siRNA inside peptide-decorated liposomes; delivery of growth factors to the placental surface via peptide-decorated quantum dots; design of polymeric nanoparticles that do not cross the placenta; assessment of cubosomes for fetal drug delivery.

3) Dissecting biological mechanisms critical to pregnancy, to inform new treatment strategies e.g. investigating regulation of leukocyte recruitment to the implantation site in early pregnancy; studying mechanisms controlling normal trophoblast function; identifying microRNAs involved in placental dysfunction; studying placental immune responses to nanoparticles.


  • BSc (1st Class Hons) Pathobiology, University of Reading, 1999
  • PhD, University of Reading, 2003


I received a B.Sc. in Pathobiology (1999) and PhD (2003) from the University of Reading, where I studied how cell death in the arterial wall contributes to the development of atherosclerosis. I then moved to The Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre at The University of Manchester to work in the laboratories of Professor John Aplin and Professor Phillip Baker. My postdoctoral research focused on how placental-derived trophoblast cells and uterine natural killer cells interact with and remodel the uterine spiral arteries during pregnancy. I also investigated the mechanisms that regulate trophoblast invasion, proliferation and survival. In 2010, I was awarded the prestigious Gabor Than Award for my contribution to the field of placentology.

In the same year, I was awarded a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship to explore the use of vascular homing peptides to develop a targeted drug delivery system for use in pregnancy. I spent 2011 working as a Visiting Fellow in the laboratory of Professor Erkki Ruoslahti at The Sanford Burnham Institute, UC Santa Barbara USA, where I identified a series of novel placental homing peptides. Upon my return to Manchester, I sought to utilize these peptides to create biocompatible nanocarriers for targeted delivery of drugs to the placenta. In May 2013, my two PhD students and I won second prize of £10,000 in the OBR OneStart European business start-up competition, reflecting the novelty and success of this approach.

Over the past 10 years, I have built on this work to create a new research discipline of obstetric nanomedicine. From 2015 - 2022, I was cross-appointed between The Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre and The Division of Pharmacy and Optometry, leading a research team specialising in vitro, in vivo and in silico approaches. I have a track-record of securing funding from research councils, charities and industry, forging international collaborations and publishing in high quality journals. I have 20 years experience of research supervision, and undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. I sit on the editorial board of two internationally recognised journals, and I peer review manuscripts and research grants for a variety of national and international sources. I acted as the Research Director for Pharmacy and Optometry and the Scientific Co-Director of the Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre from 2019 - 2022.

In 2022, I relocated my lab to The University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, USA, where I am an Associate Professor in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department. Through my varied roles, I work to promote research excellence and support the training and mentoring of the next generation of science professionals.



MPharm, Year 2: The Medicine - delivery of lectures, laboratory classes and small group teaching sessions; setting and marking assessments

MPharm, Year 3: The Medicine - delivery of lectures and workshops; setting and marking assessments

Academic advisor - MPharm, Years 2, 4

OSCE assessor

Supervisor of final year undergraduate research projects

Supervisor of 4th year MPharm research projects

Interview panel: prospective MPharm students

MPharm Mitigating Circumstances committee

MPharm Health and Conduct committee


Research Project Lead - MSc Clinical Pharmaceutical Science STP & MSc Pharmaceutical Technology and Quality Assurance

Member of the Degree Board, MRes Maternal and Fetal Health

Pastoral advisor, MRes Maternal and Fetal Health

Faculty PGR Training Workshop Lead - Strategic Publishing and Peer Review

Supervision of MRes and PhD research projects

Faculty Fellowship Academy mentor 

My collaborations

Current staff and students:

Dr Deepak Venkataraman, Postdoctoral research associate (2022- 2023).

Stacey Lee, PhD student "Targeted nanotherapies for treating placental dysfunction in women at high risk of stillbirth" Primary supervisor; co-supervised with Dr  M Dilworth and Dr A Heazell (2017 - 2022).

Zhiyong Zhou, PhD student "Estrogen-related receptors γ in pregnancies complicated by fetal growth restriction and stillbirth" Co-supervised with Dr A Heazell and Dr K Forbes (2019 - 2022).

Abdulaziz Alobaid, PhD student "Targeted drug delivery to cancerous and cancer-like cells" Primary supervisor; co-supervised with Dr R Campbell (2019 - 2023).

Ying Wang, PhD student "Skin reactions to drug delivery systems". Co-supervised with Prof. A Nicolaou (2019-2022).

Frances Beards, Technical support.



Internal and external collaborators:

Prof. Ed Johnstone, Prof. John Aplin, Dr Sue Greenwood, Dr Paul Brownbill, Dr Michelle Desforges, Dr Mark Dilworth, Prof. Alex Heazell, Dr Richard Campbell, Prof. Anna Nicolaou and Prof. Martin Lowe, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, University of Manchester, UK

Dr Karen Forbes, University of Leeds, UK

Dr May Azzawi, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Professor Erkki Ruoslahti, Sanford Burnham Medical Research Insitiute, CA, USA

Dr Natalie Hannan and Professor Stephen Tong, University of Melbourne, Australia

Prof. Ted Golos, University of Madison, Wisconsin, USA


Memberships of committees and professional bodies

Methodological knowledge

Cell and tissue culture; primary cell isolation; microdissection; immunohistochemistry; proliferation, viability and apoptosis assays; cell cycle analysis; protease activity assays; ELISA; flow cytometry; pressure myography; fluorescence, timelapse and confocal microscopy; RNA interference; immunoprecipitation; western blotting; qRT-PCR; LDL isolation and oxidation; HPLC; bacterial culture; phage display.

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
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Lydia Becker Institute


  • placenta
  • pregnancy
  • drug delivery


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