Giulia Adriani obtained her PhD in Biomedical and Biomechanical Engineering in 2012. During her PhD she was awarded the Interpolytechnic Doctoral School Fellowship and worked as Research Fellow at The Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston, Texas (USA) at the Department of Nanomedicine where she studied the use of nanoparticles as an anticancer drug delivery system. In 2012 she moved to Singapore and joined the National University of Singapore (NUS) and at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) to work on semiconductor nanorod used for ultrasensitive biodetection. Since 2013, she has been working at MIT’s research center in Singapore (SMART) in the BioSystems and Micromechanics (BioSyM) Group as Postdoc and Research Scientist on multiple projects in the fields of biomedical engineering, microfluidics and tumour biology. Giulia joined the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN, A*STAR) in 2019 as Principal Investigator and her main research interest is in 3D microfluidic multicellular systems to study cancer immunotherapy and tumor-immune system interactions.

Adjunct Positions

  • Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, NUS, Singapore

Research Focus

Immunotherapeutic approaches for solid tumors benefit only a small number of patients due to the challenges posed by the complex cellular network in the tumor microenvironment (TME). In particular, an immunosuppressive TME is widely recognized as responsible for the failure of many clinical trials for solid tumors and is often related to poor prognosis in a broad range of cancers. Some key factors driving these immunosuppressive phenomena have been identified, but the mechanisms acting in the tumour immune microenvironment (TIME) to sustain tumour survival are still poorly understood and need further investigations.

In this scenario, one of the main challenges is recapitulating the complex 3D TME in vitro. While in vitro 2D cultures have been the “gold standard” of pre-clinical cancer research, there is increasing evidence that cells grown in 2D cultures do not reproduce the biological complexity of tumours. In particular, they do not reflect the complex extracellular matrix (ECM)-cancer interactions as well as intra-tumoral gradients in pH, oxygen and nutrients, which occur in vivo. These differences may explain why many drugs and therapeutic strategies succeed in pre-clinical in vitro testing but then fail in clinical settings. On the other hand, in vivo pre-clinical mouse models are still very important in the development pipeline but, due to the complexity of the in vivo settings, they often fail to give quantitative data on each parameter involved in cell signalling. Therefore, we use microfluidic-based assays to culture cells ex vivo in 3D settings for quantitative screening of single or polytherapy approaches.

Microfluidic technology applied to cancer immunotherapy is a very promising field that is exciting the interest of many multinational pharmaceutical companies. Indeed, 3D multicellular microfluidic models offer considerable benefits and have demonstrated a clear advantage over classical 2D platforms to screen for different therapeutic approaches in our previous studies. Some clear advantages of using a 3D microfluidic system over animal or other 2D and 3D in vitro models are: (i) easy real-time visualization of 3D cell-cell interactions; (ii) application of different gradients of oxygen or cytokines, chemokines and inflammatory molecules; (iii) control of physical parameters, like ECM stiffness and density, to consider organ-specific tumour metastasis; (iv) reduction of in vitro artefacts such as the gravity-mediated interaction between cells that occurs in standard assays.


Lab Members

Postdocs (Ph.D) Research Officers PhD Students
Ying Jie QUEK
  Nicolette YAU


Publications_Giulia Adriani (last updated 16 November 2023)