Samuel Lai

  • Fellowship in 2008 at Johns Hopkins University

Biography. Dr. Sam Lai was born in Hong Kong and spent his childhood in both Hong Kong and Vancouver, Canada. After completing high school at Phillips Academy, Andover, he attended Cornell University and received his B.S. in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering in 2003. He then undertook doctoral studies at Johns Hopkins University, receiving his Ph.D. in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering in 2007. Following a one-year postdoctoral study supported by the Croucher Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship program, he became a Research Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins in fall 2008 before joining the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy as an Assistant Professor in fall 2010. Dr. Lai's previous research focused on nanoparticle-based delivery of bioactive molecules to mucosal tissues. He helped pioneer the development of mucus-penetrating particle (MPP) technology, a breakthrough that formed the basis of Kala Pharmaceuticals, a Waltham, MA startup launched in 2009. Dr. Lai remains an adviser to Kala.  To date, he has authored over 30 publications and numerous patents.


Areas of ongoing research in the Lai Lab at UNC include

  1. Biophysics of mucosal immunity.  By studying how the immune system can work together with mucus secretions to block infections, we seek to develop improved protection against existing and emerging respiratory, orally and sexually transmitted infections.


  2. Nanoparticle-immune interactions.  We seek to improve lymphatic and systemic drug delivery by engineering nanoparticles that can effectively evade immune recognition and biological barriers.