Helen McCarthy


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Open to PhD applications in the field of nano-drug delivery, biopharmaceutics, vaccine technology, repurposing of phosphate-based drugs, nucleic acid therapies and bone repair. - Development of nanomedicines for cancer - Design of non-viral delivery systems


Research activity per year

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Personal profile


Prof McCarthy’s research team have focused on the development of non-viral delivery systems for nanomedicine applications in the School of Pharmacy. These biomimetic peptide systems are designed to overcome the extra and intracellular barriers, so that the macromolecular payload can be delivered at the destination site in order to exert the optimal therapeutic effect. Helen has designed and patented three delivery systems. Current research projects involve gene therapy for metastatic deposits; miRNA therapeutics for oncology and wound healing applications; mRNA and DNA vaccination strategies; and regeneration of bone by increasing the bioavailability of ceramics. The wide-spread utility of these delivery systems has led to a spin-out company Phion Therapeutics www.phiontx.co.uk. We currently have three internal projects funded by Innovate UK, several commercial partners, one of which includes Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult for ex vivo applications of our technology.

Helen has published over 100 scientific publications, edited a book and has given many conference presentations. Research grant income from the National Science Foundation, Invest Northern Ireland, Cancer Research UK, Prostate Cancer UK, Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, The Royal Society, BBSRC, MRC, EPSRC, and Versus Arthritis have supported this research. Helen currently sits on the editorial board for Cancer Nanotechnology and the Journal of Material Science and is an external examiner  for Pharmacy at RCSI and Translational Oncology in TCD.


Research Statement

Prof McCarthy's Research interests include:

Delivery of Nucleic Acids

Cancer Gene Therapy 

Bio-inspired Delivery systems

DNA & mRNA Therapeutic Vaccines

Bone Regeneration


Biomaterials with Genetic Cargo

Transcriptional Targeting

Prostate Cancer

Pancreatic Cancer


Current Funding:

Invest NI

Prostate Cancer UK

Versus Arthritis


Phion Therapeutics


Teaching and delivery on 3 Modules on the MPharm Pathway (Yr 1, 3 & 4) and 3 Modules on the on the BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences Pathway and BSc Pharmaceutical Biotechnology in QUB and China Queen’s College.


Assistant Module Co-ordinator for PMY3176 (MPharm) and PMY3276 (BSc) ‘Advanced Delivery Systems for Large and Small Molecules’. 

Assistant co-ordinator for PMY4005 Project module on the MPharm degree.  


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