Carnegie Mellon University

Kathryn Whitehead

Kathryn Whitehead

Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering (courtesy)


Professor Whitehead joined the Department of Chemical Engineering in 2012. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware in 2002 and her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2007. As a graduate student in the laboratory of Samir Mitragotri, Professor Whitehead developed systems for the oral delivery of macromolecules. From 2008 - 2012, she trained as a postdoc with Bob Langer in the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. There, she developed biomaterials and methodologies for the advancement of RNA interference therapeutics. Professor Whitehead is a native Pennsylvanian, having grown up in Allentown.


Postdoctoral Fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology - 2008 - 2012
Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara - 2002 -2007
B.Ch.E. University of Delaware - 1998 - 2002


The research interests of the Whitehead Lab lie at the interface of chemical engineering, molecular biology, and medicine. Our ultimate goal is to engineer safe and effective drug delivery systems capable of achieving therapeutic outcomes in biological models and, ultimately, in humans. As a first step, the Whitehead Lab is interested in developing a fundamental understanding of the relationship between delivery barrier biology and drug transport. To accomplish this, we are employing RNA interference, a biological phenomenon that induces gene silencing in the presence of siRNA. Through the identification of cellular components essential to the drug transport process, we are able to design delivery systems using modern chemical techniques to overcome or cooperate with those components. Specifically, we are interested in the development of delivery systems for the nucleus, the intestinal epithelium, and various leukocytes, including B lymphoma cells.

Research Websites

Biomolecular Engineering
Research Group Site


  • Developed a patented oral delivery system that is being translated for clinical use by Entrega, an Enlight Biosciences company founded in 2011.
  • Engineered potent lipid nanoparticles for siRNA delivery that have been licensed by several biotechnology companies for therapeutic and reagent use.

Awards and Honors

  • 2016 Young Innovator of CMBE
  • Popular Science Brilliant 10 Award (2015)
  • Invited Participant, National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Symposium (2015)
  • Kun Li Award for Excellence in Education (2015)
  • MIT Technology Review Innovator Under 35 (2014)
  • NIH Ruth Kirschstein NRSA Fellowship (2010 - 2012)
  • UC Graduate Research and Education in Adaptive Biotechnology Fellowship (2004 - 2006)
  • Diabetes Technology Society Peterson Research Award (2004)
  • Controlled Release Society Capsugel/Pfizer Oral Drug Delivery Award (2004)
  • UCSB Chemical Engineering Service Award (2004)
  • Materials Research Laboratory Fellowship (2002 - 2003) 


Selected Publications

Ball, R., Knapp, C., and Whitehead, K. Lipidoid Nanoparticles for siRNA Delivery to the Intestinal Epithelium: in vitro Investigations in a Caco-2 Model. PLOS One, 10(7) doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133154, 2015.

Knapp, C. and Whitehead, K. In pursuit of a moving target: Nanotherapeutics for the treatment of Non-Hodgkin B-cell lymphoma. Expert Opinion on Drug Delivery, 11(12): 1923-1937, 2014.

Whitehead, K., Dorkin, J., Vegas, A., Chang, P., Veiseh, O., Matthews, J., Fenton, O., Zhang, Y., Olejnik, K., Chen, D., Barros, S., Klebanov, B., Novobrantseva, T., Langer, R., and Anderson, D. Degradable lipid nanoparticles with predictable in vivo siRNA delivery activity. Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms5277, 2014.

Whitehead, K., Matthews, J., Chang, P., Dorkin, J. R., Niroui, F., Severgnini, M., Anderson, D. In vitro - in vivo translation of lipid nanoparticles for hepatocellular siRNA delivery. ACS Nano, 6(8): 6922-9, 2012.

Whitehead, K., Sahay, G., Li, G., Love, K., Alabi, C.,Ma, M., Zurenko, C., Querbes, W., Langer, R., and Anderson, D. Synergistic silencing: Binary combinations of lipid-like materials for efficacious siRNA delivery. Molecular Therapy, 19(9):1688-94, 2011.

Full Publications