The Alan S. Michaels Distinguished Lectureship in Medical and Biological Engineering – 2020

Translation of Discoveries into Products – An Industrial Perspective

Hongming Chen ScD ’97
Chief Science Officer, Kala Pharmaceuticals

Friday, February 21, 2020
3:00 p.m.,
2:30 p.m. Reception
Room: 66-110
Department of Chemical Engineering

Lecture Video


Mucus serves as a protective barrier on our mucosal surfaces to trap and eliminate foreign agents such as viruses, bacteria and allergens. In playing this pivotal protective role, mucus can also hinder mucosal drug delivery through the same clearance mechanism.  Mucus penetrating nanoparticles (MPPs) are particles specifically engineered to avoid such interactions with the mucus and to minimize mucus-driven elimination.  In this presentation, I will describe Kala’s journey of translating this novel technology from its early discovery through preclinical validation and clinical trials to ultimate FDA approval.


Dr. Hongming Chen is the Chief Scientific Officer at Kala Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company she helped to start in 2010.  At Kala, she successfully translated a novel nanoparticle technology from bench discovery through Phase III clinical trials and FDA approval, and has helped to attract >$250 MM investments to the company, including a $104 MM IPO in 2017.  Prior to Kala, Hongming helped to start and build another biotech company, TransForm Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2005 for $230 MM.  Before TransForm, Hongming held various research positions at AstraZeneca and Merck.

Hongming is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, a Fellow of the Controlled Release Society, and a member of the Academy of Distinguished Chemical Engineers at UT Austin.  In 2014, she was named by the Mass High Tech as one of the “Women to Watch”.  Hongming received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UT Austin in 1992, and her M.S. and Sc.D. in Chemical Engineering from MIT in 1995 and 1996.