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Joseph DeSimone, Ph.D. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Joseph DeSimone, Ph.D. Joseph DeSimone, Ph.D.

Chancellor's Eminent Professor of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences | UNC-Chapel Hill


DeSimone's research lab studies the underlying mechanisms of diseases and uses nanotechnology to engineer better treatments and vaccines.





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Dr. Joseph M. DeSimone: 2008 Winner, $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize What If 3D Printing Was 100x Faster? | Joseph DeSimone | TED Talks Carbon3D Demo 2015 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine - Joseph DeSimone TEDxUNC - Joseph DeSimone - Diversity as a Fundamental Tenet of Innovation




Professor DeSimone is the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Chemical Engineering at NC State University and of Chemistry at UNC. He is also an adjunct member at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. DeSimone has published over 300 scientific articles and has over 150 issued patents in his name, with over 80 patents pending.

DeSimone is one of only a few individuals to have been elected to all three of the U. S. National Academies: the National Academy of Medicine (2014), the National Academy of Sciences (2012), and the National Academy of Engineering (2005). He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2005). In December 2015, the White House announced that he would receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. The medal recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the nation’s technological workforce.

Among DeSimone’s notable inventions is an environmentally friendly manufacturing process that relies on supercritical carbon dioxide instead of water and bio-persistent surfactants (detergents) for the creation of fluoropolymers or high-performance plastics, such as Teflon.

DeSimone’s research group is exploring ways to harness fabrication technologies from the semiconductor industry to design high-performance, cost-effective vaccines and medicines. DeSimone and his team developed a roll-to-roll particle fabrication technology called PRINT (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) in 2004.

In 2005, his research group's work led to the creation of the Carolina Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, a 10-year, nearly $40 million initiative based at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Currently, DeSimone is on leave from the university to run Carbon3D, the Silicon Valley company he co-founded, The company is focused on bringing to market a revolutionary 3-D process that enables objects to rise from a liquid media continuously rather than being built layer by layer.

Industry Expertise (4)

Education/Learning Research Advanced Medical Equipment Nanotechnology

Areas of Expertise (6)

Chemistry 3d Printing Nanotechnology Chemical Engineering Biomedical Engineering Innovation

Accomplishments (8)

National Medal of Technology and Innovation (professional)


Bestowed by the White House, this award recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life and helped strengthen the nation’s technological workforce.

Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine (professional)


Inaugural recipient of award by Northwestern University

Dickson Prize for Science (professional)


Awarded by Carnegie Mellon University

Industrial Research Institute Medal (professional)


Kathryn C. Hach Award for Entrepreneurial Success (professional)


Fellow, National Academy of Inventors (professional)


The NAI recognizes investigators who translate their research findings into inventions that benefit society, drive economic development and improve lives.

AAAS Mentor Award (professional)


Lemelson–MIT Prize (professional)


Recipient of $500,000 prize for invention of PRINT® (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) technology used to manufacture nanocarriers in medicine.

Education (2)

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: Ph.D., Polymer Chemistry 1990

Ursinus College: B.S., Chemistry 1986

Affiliations (5)

  • Member of the National Academy of Medicine (2014)
  • Member of the National Academy of Sciences (2012)
  • Member of the National Academy of Engineering (2005
  • Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2005)
  • Fellow American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2006)

Media Appearances (9)

DeSimone to receive National Medal of Technology and Innovation

UNC-Chapel Hill Office of Communications  


The White House on December 22 announced the latest recipients of the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation — our nation’s highest honors for achievement and leadership in advancing the fields of science and technology. The new awardees — including Joseph DeSimone, Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — will receive their medals at a White House ceremony early next year.

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New Hybrid Electrolyte For Solid-State Lithium Batteries

Berkeley Lab  online


Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a novel electrolyte for use in solid-state lithium batteries that overcomes many of the problems that plague other solid electrolytes while also showing signs of being compatible with next-generation cathodes.

Berkeley Lab battery scientist Nitash Balsara, working with collaborator Joseph DeSimone of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, came up with a highly conductive hybrid electrolyte, combining the two primary types of solid electrolytes—polymer and glass.

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From lab bench to marketplace

UNC-Chapel Hill Office of Communications  


Between creating a new 3-D manufacturing method and engineering medical cures on the nano-level, it may look like Joseph DeSimone’s interests are all over the map.

But at the heart of every new innovation made by the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences at Carolina is a toolbox of skill and salesmanship fused by his passion to better lives.

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Joseph DeSimone receives $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine

UNC-Chapel Hill Office of Communications  


Joseph M. DeSimone, Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named the recipient of the inaugural $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine for his invention and use of PRINT, a breakthrough technology that has been used to make advances toward the development of new cancer treatments, inhalable therapeutics and next generation vaccines for malaria, pneumonia and dengue.

Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN) established the Kabiller Prize earlier this year to recognize outstanding achievements in the field of nanotechnology and its application to biology and medicine. It was made possible through a generous donation from Northwestern trustee and alumnus David G. Kabiller, a co-founder of AQR Capital Management, a global investment management firm in Greenwich, Conn.

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Triangle scientist DeSimone bags big money from Wakefield, Piedmont Capital for new firm

Triangle Business Journal  online


DeSimone, who has taken a two-year sabbatical from his professorship at UNC-Chapel Hill, says that he is now heading a Silicon Valley company, Carbon 3D, and has just finished raising $41 million – thanks to big support from Menlo Park, California-based Sequoia Capital and Silver Lake Kraftwerk, and from regional firms Wakefield Group and Piedmont Capital.

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What if 3D printing was 100x faster?



What we think of as 3D printing, says Joseph DeSimone, is really just 2D printing over and over ... slowly. Onstage at TED2015, he unveils a bold new technique — inspired, yes, by Terminator 2 — that's 25 to 100 times faster, and creates smooth, strong parts. Could it finally help to fulfill the tremendous promise of 3D printing?

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UNC-Chapel Hill researchers collaborate to develop revolutionary 3D printing technology

UNC-Chapel Hill Office of Communications  


A 3D printing technology developed by Silicon Valley startup, Carbon3D Inc., enables objects to rise from a liquid media continuously rather than being built layer by layer as they have been for the past 25 years, representing a fundamentally new approach to 3D printing. The technology, to appear as the cover article in the March 20 print issue of Science, allows ready-to-use products to be made 25 to 100 times faster than other methods and creates previously unachievable geometries that open opportunities for innovation not only in health care and medicine, but also in other major industries such as automotive and aviation.

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Chemistry professor Joe DeSimone receives national recognition

The Daily Tar Heel  online


UNC chemistry professor Joseph DeSimone can celebrate knowing that he has achieved a feat so great, only a handful of people in the world can say the same. With his election earlier this month to the Institute of Medicine, he has joined a select group of accomplished individuals to be named to all three U.S. National Academies. He is the first professor in North Carolina to receive this esteemed honor. Prior to the Institute of Medicine, DeSimone was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2005 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2012. He said he is excited about the honor as a recognition of his research.

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Joseph DeSimone - Diversity as a Fundamental Tenet of Innovation

TEDxUNC -  online


The chemical engineer and recipient of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize discusses the ways in which diversity in a team enhances its ability to problem-solve and create successful innovation.

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Articles (5)

Compliant glass–polymer hybrid single ion-conducting electrolytes for lithium batteries PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


Irune Villaluenga, Kevin H. Wujcik, Wei Tong, Didier Devaux, Dominica H.C. Wong, Joseph M. DeSimone, and Nitash P. Balsara.

This study describes hybrid single ion-conducting electrolytes based on inorganic sulfide glasses and perfluoropolyether polymers for lithium batteries. Herein, it is shown that hybrid electrolytes provide a compelling alternative to the traditional glass, ceramic, or polymer battery electrolytes. These electrolytes present high transference numbers, unprecedented ionic conductivities at room temperature, and excellent electrochemical stability, and they limit the dissolution of lithium polysulfides. The results in this work represent a significant step toward addressing the challenges of enabling the next generation cathodes, such as lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide and sulfur.

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Targeted PRINT Hydrogels: The Role of Nanoparticle Size and Ligand Density on Cell Association, Biodistribution, and Tumor Accumulation Nano Letters


Reuter, K. G.; Perry, J. L.; Dongwook, K.; Luft, J. C.; Liu, R.; DeSimone, J. M.

Abstract: : In this Letter, we varied targeting ligand density of an EGFR binding affibody on the surface of two different hydrogel PRINT nanoparticles (80 nm × 320 and 55 nm × 60 nm) and monitored effects on target-cell association, off-target phagocytic uptake, biodistribution, and tumor accumulation. Interestingly, variations in ligand density only significantly altered in vitro internalization rates for the 80 nm × 320 nm particle. However, in vivo, both particle sizes xperienced significant changes in biodistribution and pharmacokinetics as a function of ligand density. Overall,
nanoparticle size and passive accumulation were the dominant factors eliciting tumor

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Continuous liquid interface production of 3D objects Science


Tumbleston, J. R.; Shirvanyants, D.; Ermoshkin, N.; Janusziewicz, R.; Johnson, A. R.; Kelly, D.; Chen, K.; Pinschmidt, R.; Rolland, J. P.; Ermoshkin, A.; Samulski, E. T.; DeSimone, J. M. Science 2015, 347(6228), 1349-1352.

Abstract: Additive manufacturing processes such as 3D printing use time-consuming, stepwise layer-by-layer approaches to object fabrication. We demonstrate the continuous generation of monolithic polymeric parts up to tens of centimeters in size with feature resolution below 100 micrometers. Continuous liquid interface production is achieved with an oxygen-permeable window below the ultraviolet image projection plane, which creates a “dead zone” (persistent liquid interface) where photopolymerization is inhibited between the window and the polymerizing part. We delineate critical control parameters and show that complex solid parts can be drawn out of the resin at rates of hundreds of millimeters per hour. These print speeds allow parts to be produced in minutes instead of hours.

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Local Iontophoretic Administration of Cytotoxic Therapies to Solid Tumors Science Translational Medicine


Byrne, J. D.; Jajja, M. R. N.; O’Neill, A. T.; Bickford, L. R.; Keeler, A. W.; Hyder, N.; Wagner, K.; Deal, A.; Little, R. E.; Moffitt, R. A.; Stack, C.; Nelson, M.; Brooks, C. R.; Lee, W.; Luft, J. C.; Napier, M. E.; Darr, D.; Anders, C. K.; Stack, R.; Tepper, J. E.; Wang, A. Z.; Zamboni, W. C.; Yeh, J. J.; DeSimone, J. M.

Abstract: Parenteral and oral routes have been the traditional methods of administering cytotoxic agents to cancer patients. Unfortunately, the maximum potential effect of these cytotoxic agents has been limited because of systemic toxicity and poor tumor perfusion. In an attempt to improve the efficacy of cytotoxic agents while mitigating their side effects, we have developed modalities for the localized iontophoretic delivery of cytotoxic agents. These iontophoretic devices were designed to be implanted proximal to the tumor with external control of power and drug flow.

Three distinct orthotopic mouse models of cancer and a canine model were evaluated for device efficacy and toxicity. Orthotopic patient-derived pancreatic cancer xenografts treated biweekly with gemcitabine via the device for 7 weeks experienced a mean log2 fold change in tumor volume of –0.8 compared to a mean log2 fold change in tumor volume of 1.1 for intravenous (IV) gemcitabine, 3.0 for IV saline, and 2.6 for device saline groups. The weekly coadministration of systemic cisplatin therapy and transdermal device cisplatin therapy significantly increased tumor growth inhibition and doubled the survival in two aggressive orthotopic models of breast cancer. The addition of radiotherapy to this treatment further extended survival. Device delivery of gemcitabine in dogs resulted in more than 7-fold difference in local drug concentrations and 25-fold lower systemic drug levels than the IV treatment.

Overall, these devices have potential paradigm shifting implications for the treatment of pancreatic, breast, and other solid tumors.

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Controlled analysis of nanoparticle charge on mucosal and systemic antibody responses following pulmonary immunization PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


Fromen, C. A.; Robbins, G. R.; Shen, T. W.; Kai, M. P.; Ting, J. P. Y.; DeSimone, J. M.

Abstract: Pulmonary immunization enhances local humoral and cell-mediated mucosal protection, which are critical for vaccination against lung-specific pathogens such as influenza or tuberculosis. A variety of nanoparticle (NP) formulations have been tested preclinically for pulmonary vaccine development, yet the role of NP surface charge on downstream immune responses remains poorly understood. We used the Particle Replication in Non-Wetting Templates (PRINT) process to synthesize hydrogel NPs that varied only in surface charge and otherwise maintained constant size, shape, and antigen loading. Pulmonary immunization with ovalbumin (OVA)-conjugated cationic NPs led to enhanced systemic and lung antibody titers compared with anionic NPs. Increased antibody production correlated with robust germinal center B-cell expansion and increased activated CD4+ T-cell populations in lung draining lymph nodes. Ex vivo treatment of dendritic cells (DCs) with OVA-conjugated cationic NPs induced robust antigen-specific T-cell proliferation with ∼100-fold more potency than soluble OVA alone. Enhanced T-cell expansion correlated with increased expression of surface MHCII, T-cell coactivating receptors, and key cytokines/chemokine expression by DCs treated with cationic NPs, which were not observed with anionic NPs or soluble OVA.

Together, these studies highlight the importance of NP surface charge when designing pulmonary vaccines, and our findings support the notion that cationic NP platforms engender potent humoral and mucosal immune responses.

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