Shukla receives Falk Trust Transformational Award

Anita ShuklaAnita Shukla, assistant professor of engineering at Brown University, has been awarded a Dr. Ralph and Marian Falk Medical Research Trust Transformational Award, a $1 million grant over two years. The award is intended to provide the bridge to the technology transfer process for moving an exciting health care innovation to the next step in commercial development.

Shukla’s project, titled “Advancing bacteria-triggered hydrogel therapeutics to combat antibiotic resistance,” aims to address the global public health threat of resistance to antibiotics, building on a successful Catalyst Award research project, also funded by the trust. That award developed platform technology for bacteria-triggered drug delivery with tremendous promise for clinical translation.

Professor Shukla is the first Brown University faculty member to receive a Falk Transformational Award. It’s a significant honor, and a testament to the groundbreaking work of her lab. Her research is poised to make critical therapeutic and scientific impacts in this area.

Larry Larson Sorensen Family Dean of Engineering

Through the award, Shukla will further advance this technology by investigating the antibacterial potential of these hydrogels, with the expectation that these materials will greatly improve treatment options for difficult to treat wounds prone to infection, such as diabetic ulcers and burns.

The Dr. Ralph and Marian Falk Medical Research Trust was created by Marian Falk in 1979 to support biomedical research, and transformational awards are granted based on both scientific merit and having successfully attained the proposed milestones and benchmarks of the Catalyst Award, which Shukla received in 2019.

At Brown, Shukla’s Laboratory for Designer Biomaterials develops smart materials aimed at addressing a range of biomedical challenges. Her research includes designing responsive and targeted biomaterials for applications in both drug delivery and regenerative medicine. She has done considerable work in developing new antimicrobial drug delivery systems in the form of hydrogels, thin films and nano- and micro-particles, as well as microbial sensors that can detect the presence of harmful bacteria before infections occur.

Shukla was recently named one of the nation’s 85 brightest early-career engineers and chosen to take part in the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) 26th annual U.S. Frontiers of Engineering (USFOE) symposium. She has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, as well as receiving a Brown University Early Career Research Achievement Award. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is the NSF’s most prestigious award “in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” Last year, Shukla was tabbed a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE), the nation’s highest award for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers. 

She has also been the recipient of several other national and university honors and awards for both research and teaching in her career, including an Office of Naval Research Director of Research Early Career Grant and a Brown University Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and a Henry Merritt Wriston Fellowship.

Prior to arriving at Brown, Shukla was an NIH Ruth Kirschstein postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Bioengineering at Rice University. She received her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011 as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. Shukla also received an M.S. in chemical engineering practice from MIT, after earning her B.S. at Carnegie Mellon University in 2006 with majors in chemical engineering and biomedical engineering.