Preethi Bala Balakrishnan

Preethi’s research interests comprise of nanoimmunotherapy involving thermal and immunotherapies, to target and eliminate solid tumors. She believes that a successful cancer therapeutics for advanced cancers should include a treatment modality that can rapidly debulk accessible tumor/s, at the same time elicit antigen-specific immunogenicity, leading to an abscopal effect to eliminate distant/metastasized tumor/s. She is also interested in nanoimmunotherapy platform to improve dysfunctional immune cells in infectious diseases like HIV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, utilizing shock and kill mechanism, triggering NK cells based ADCC and/or T cell cytotoxicity.

Preethi’s scientific interest began at her internship in Harvard-MIT-Health Science and technology program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, under mentorship of Prof. Ali Khademhosseini. After her brief internship, he pursued a Ph.D in Nanochemistry for Biomedical application in Dr. Teresa Pellegrino’s laboratory in Italy, where she primarily studied iron-oxide nanoparticles and spinel ferrites as magnetic fluid hyperthermia agents, testing their efficacy to eradicate adenocarcinoma. After her Ph.D, she undertook a postdoctoral researcher position in Prof. Rohan Fernandes lab for nanoimmunotherpy and collaborated with Dr. Catherine Bollard, Director of Cell Therapies, Children’s National Hospital, Bethesda, MD, where she explored nanoparticles based photothermal therapy in combination with antibody-based checkpoint and agonistic immunotherapies to eliminate solid cancers like melanoma, glioblastoma and breast cancer. She also helped develop two novel nanoimmunotherapy platform utilizing NK cells to target and eliminate latent HIV-1 reservoir. In Dr. Rao’s lab, she is looking to discover new molecular targets for imaging, to predict early outcome and success of immunotherapy.

Education details

B.Tech: Bioengineering, SASTRA University, India

M.Tech: Medical Nanotechnology, SASTRA University, India (1-year research internship at MIT, Boston, USA)

Ph.D.: Nanochemistry for biomedical applications, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Genoa, Italy

Postdoctoral training: Nanoimmunotherapy, The George Washington University Cancer Center, Washington DC, USA

List of publications

&These authors contributed equally

*Corresponding author

1. Scott Raskin, Stacy van Pelt, Preethi Bala Balakrishnan, Catherine Bollard, Eric Yvon*, Novel TCR-like CAR-T cells to Target an HLA*0201 restricted epitope from the Cancer-Testis Antigen SSX2 display strong activity against AML tumor. Molecular Therapy: Methods & Clinical Development, 2021 (under revision)

2. Soraia Fernandes, Tamara Fernandez, Sabrina Metze, Preethi B Balakrishnan, Binh T Mai, John Conteh, Claudia De Mei, Alice Turdo, Simone Di Franco, Giorgio Stassi, Matilde Todaro, Teresa Pellegrino*, Magnetic Nanoparticle-Based Hyperthermia Mediates Drug Delivery and Impairs the Tumorigenic Capacity of Quiescent Colorectal Cancer Stem Cells. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2021, 13, 14, 15959–15972

3. Preethi Bala Balakrishnan, Elizabeth E Sweeney*, Nanoparticles for Enhanced Adoptive T Cell Therapies and Future Perspectives for CNS Tumors. Front. Immunol., 2021, 12, 600659 (Perspective, Invited Review)

4. Preethi B Balakrishnan, Elizabeth E Sweeney, Anvitha S Ramanujam, Rohan Fernandes*, Photothermal therapies to improve immune checkpoint blockade for cancer. International Journal Of Hyperthermia, 2020, Vol 37, NO. 3, 34–49

5. Preethi Bala Balakrishnan, Niccolò Silvestri, Tamara Fernandez‐Cabada, Federica Marinaro, Soraia Fernandes, Sergio Fiorito, Mario Miscuglio, David Serantes, Sergiu Ruta, Karen Livesey, Ondrej Hovorka, Roy Chantrell, Teresa Pellegrino*, Exploiting Unique Alignment of Cobalt Ferrite Nanoparticles, Mild Hyperthermia, and Controlled Intrinsic Cobalt Toxicity for Cancer Therapy. Adv. Mater. 2020, 32, 2003712

6. Elizabeth E Sweeney&, Preethi B Balakrishnan&, Allison B Powell, Allan Bowen, Indra Sarabia, Rachel A Burga, R Brad Jones, Alberto Bosque, C Russell Y Cruz, Rohan Fernandes*, PLGA nanodepots co-encapsulating prostratin and anti-CD25 enhance primary natural killer cell antiviral and antitumor function. Nano Res. 2020, 13(3): 736–744

7. Debbie K Ledezma, Preethi B Balakrishnan, Juliana Cano-Mejia, Elizabeth E Sweeney, Melissa Hadley, Catherine M Bollard, Alejandro Villagra, Rohan Fernandes*, Indocyanine green-nexturastat A-PLGA nanoparticles combine photothermal and epigenetic therapy for melanoma. Nanomaterials 202010(1), 161

8. Binh T Mai&, Preethi B Balakrishnan&, Markus J Barthel, Federica Piccardi, Dina Niculaes, Federica Marinaro, Soraia Fernandes, Alberto Curcio, Hamilton Kakwere, Gwennhael Autret, Roberto Cingolani, Florence Gazeau, Teresa Pellegrino*, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2019, 11, 6, 5727–5739

9. Binh T Mai&, Soraia Fernandes&, Preethi B Balakrishnan&, Teresa Pellegrino*, Nanosystems based on magnetic nanoparticles and thermo-or pH-responsive polymers: an update and future perspectives. Acc. Chem. Res. 2018, 51, 5, 999–1013

10. Preethi Bala Balakrishnan, Lorenza Gardella, Mahdi Forouharshad, Teresa Pellegrino*, Orietta Monticelli*, Star poly (ε-caprolactone)-based electrospun fibers as biocompatible scaffold for doxorubicin with prolonged drug release activity. Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 161 (2018) 488–496

11. Maria Elena Materia, Manuel Pernia Leal, Marco Scotto, Preethi Bala Balakrishnan, Sahitya Kumar Avugadda, María L García-Martín, Bruce E Cohen, Emory M Chan, Teresa Pellegrino*. Multifunctional magnetic and upconverting nanobeads as dual modal imaging tools. Bioconjugate Chem. 2017, 28, 11, 2707–2714

12. Juergen Bartelmess, Marco Frasconi, Preethi B Balakrishnan, Angelo Signorelli, Luis Echegoyen, Teresa Pellegrino*, Silvia Giordani*, Non-covalent functionalization of carbon nano-onions with pyrene–BODIPY dyads for biological imaging. RSC Adv. 2015, 5, 50253-50258