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Prof James Birchall  -  BPharm MRPharmS PhD

General Overview

Joint Coordinator of the School's Drug Delivery & Microbiology Research Discipline


Research Interests

James Birchall dip coating microneedles in Georgia

Dr James Birchall dip coating a micro-needle device in Mark Prausnitz’s lab, Georgia Institute of Technology during a visit in November 2008

  • Enhanced delivery of therapeutic macromolecules to the skin via microfabricated microneedles
    The skin epidermis represents an appropriate target for the delivery of low molecular weight drugs, vaccines, biopharmaceuticals and gene based therapies. The skin, however, is characterised by poor permeability. Microfabricated microneedle arrays are designed to pierce the stratum corneum skin barrier layer in a minimally invasive and pain-free manner to provide transient pathways for the delivery of macromolecules to the underlying skin epidermis.
  • Delivery of gene therapy vectors via pulmonary routes
    Although non-viral gene vectors are capable of mediating gene transfer both in vitro and in vivo following nebulisation, the delivery efficiency of conventional nebuliser systems is greatly reduced due to the restrictions of the device and the physico-chemical characteristics of the particles at elevated concentrations in the nebuliser reservoir.  While newer nebuliser technologies are under development, pressurised metered-dose inhalers (pMDIs) and dry powder inhalers (DPIs) may provide more viable alternatives for delivering therapeutically active macromolecules, particularly genes, to the lung.
  • Caveolae-mediated delivery of non-viral gene vectors
    In addition to these two primary areas of research I have also been involved in collaborative projects with Professor Mark Gumbleton, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, investigating caveolae-mediated delivery of non-viral gene vectors. Our aim is to elucidate the mechanisms implicated in the internalisation of gene vectors via the temporal examination of the co-localisation of labelled pDNA with caveolae membrane.




Dr Alexander Anstey (Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust)

Dr Chris Gateley (Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust)

Dr Ian Williamson (Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust)



Dr Mark Prausnitz (Georgia Institute of Technology), Founder member of European Barrier Research Network


Key Expertise

  • Ex vivo human skin organ culture
  • Light and electron microscopy
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Pharmaceutical formulation
  • Cell transfection and gene expression analysis


Research Funding

Over £1 million in external grant funding (majority as PI) from a broad range of sources including Research Councils (BBSRC and EPSRC postgraduate and postdoctoral funding), the pharmaceutical industry, government bodies and charities. In recent years US collaborations, e.g. Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, and a European research network have been instigated and developed to target larger collaborative grants.