Millicent Sullivan, Ph.D.

Alvin B. and Julie O. Stiles Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Alvin B. and Julie O. Stiles Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Allan P. Colburn Laboratory, Suite 226
University of Delaware
Newark, Delaware 19716
P: 302-831-8072
F: 302-831-1048

Lab Website


  • Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
  • B.S. in Chemical Engineering, Princeton University


  • Gene and siRNA delivery in regenerative medicine
  • Polymer and peptide biomaterials


“A wealth of potential therapeutic opportunities remains untapped within cells. For example, DNA delivered to the nucleus can interact with the native nuclear machinery to stimulate cellular production of essentially any protein of interest, whereas short interfering RNA (siRNA) delivered to the cytosol can initiate gene silencing (and the corresponding lack of protein production). Because of the exquisite specificity of these processes and the fundamental role for proteins in biology, nucleic acid medicines have unparalleled potential to modulate tissue regeneration and cure a wide range of devastating diseases, including cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and infectious diseases, yet no nucleic acid products are currently marketed. Meanwhile, various intracellular organelles are also the therapeutic targets for numerous small molecule medicines such as chemotherapies, but poorly controlled delivery regimens often cause severe side effects, multi-drug resistance phenotypes, and in some cases, a total lack of efficacy.

Our group addresses challenges in therapeutic delivery by coupling “traditional” chemical engineering strengths in molecular design, molecular self-assembly, and chemical reaction kinetics with cross-disciplinary strengths in cell and extracellular matrix (ECM) biology and the cell-material interface. We develop and use nanoscale materials to understand and probe cellular “unit ops,” with long-term applications including targeted drug delivery for prostate and breast cancer, and gene therapy for wound and tissue repair.”


For a complete list of publications, visit Dr. Sullivan’s Google Scholar.

Kelley, E.G., Albert, J.N.L., Sullivan, M.O., and Epps, III, T.H. (2013) “Stimuli-responsive Copolymer Solution and Surface Assemblies for Biomedical Applications,” Chemical Society Reviews, 42:  7057-7071.

Kelley, E.G.*, Murphy, R.P.*, Seppala, J.E., Smart, T.P., Hann, S.D., Sullivan, M.O., and Epps, III, T.H. (2014) “Size Evolution of Highly Amphiphilic Macromolecular Solution Assemblies via a Distinct Bimodal Pathway,” Nature Communications, 5: 3599. doi:10.1038/ncomms4599.

Ross, N.L., Munsell, E.V., Sabanayagam, C., and Sullivan, M.O.  (2015) “Histone-Targeted Polyplexes Avoid Endosomal Escape and Enter the Nucleus During Post-mitotic Redistribution of ER Membranes,” Molecular Therapy Nucleic Acids, 4, e226,  doi:10.1038/mtna.2015.2.

Munsell, E.V., Ross, N.L., and Sullivan, M.O. (2016) “Journey to the Center of the Cell: Current Nanocarrier Design Strategies Targeting Biopharmaceuticals to the Cytoplasm and Nucleus,” Current Pharmaceutical Design, 22(9): 1227-1244.

Greco, C.T., Epps III, T.H., and Sullivan, M.O. (2016) “Mechanistic Design of Polymer Nanocarriers to Spatiotemporally Control Gene Silencing,” ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering, doi:  10.1021/acsbiomaterials.6b00336.

Urello, M.A., Kiick, K.L., and Sullivan, M.O. (2016) “Integration of Growth Factor Gene Delivery with Collagen-Triggered Wound Repair Cascades using Collagen-Mimetic Peptides,” Bioengineering & Translational Medicine, doi: 10.1002/btm2.10037.

Greco, C.T., Muir, V.M., Epps III, T.H., and Sullivan, M.O. (2017) “Efficient Tuning of siRNA Dose Response by Combining Mixed Polymer Nanocarriers with Simple Kinetic Modeling,” Acta Biomaterialia, doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2017.01.003.

Urello, M.A., Kiick, K.L., and Sullivan, M.O. (2017) “ECM Turnover-Stimulated Gene Delivery through CMP-Plasmid Integration in Collagen,” Acta Biomaterialia, 62: 167-178.

Munsell, E.V., Kurpad, D., Freeman, T., and Sullivan, M.O. (2018) “Histone-Targeted Gene Transfer of Bone Morphogenetic Protein-2 Enhances Mesenchymal Stem Cell Chondrogenic Differentiation,” Acta Biomaterialia, 71: 156-157.

Lieser, R.M., Chen, W., and Sullivan, M.O. (2019) “Controlled EGFR Ligand Display on Cancer Suicide Enzymes via UAA Engineering for Enhanced Intracellular Delivery in Breast Cancer Cells,” Bioconjugate Chemistry, doi:10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.8b00783.