Justin Scot Hanes, Ph.D.

Headshot of Justin Scot Hanes
  • Director, Center for Nanomedicine
  • Professor of Ophthalmology

Research Interests

Nanomedicine; Drug delivery; Nanotechnology for Drug and Nucleic Acid Delivery ...read more


Justin Hanes, Ph.D., is the Lewis J. Ort Professor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins, with secondary appointments in biomedical engineering, chemical & biomolecular engineering, environmental health sciences, neurosurgery and oncology. He is a leader of research at the interface of nanotechnology and medicine and is the director of the Center for Nanomedicine. Dr. Hanes is internationally recognized for designing and synthesizing new biodegradable plastics to create nanoscopic, drug/gene-filled particles, capable of targeted delivery to specific sites in the body. His lab recently discovered methods to make drug and gene-loaded particles that efficiently penetrate mucus barriers, which may allow for more effective therapies for eye diseases.

The Center for Nanomedicine has pioneered the use of high-resolution particle tracking; this technique provides insight into the barriers faced by nanoscopic drug and gene carrier particles. Research goals include characterizing the barrier properties of the mucus layer coating the eyes, designing new nanomedicines that bypass the mucus barrier of the eyes, producing safe, synthetic nanoparticles that efficiently deliver therapeutic genes to various cell types within the eye, including the back of the eye and the surface, and testing these various new systems in animal models of eye disease with collaborators from Wilmer Eye Institute and elsewhere.

Dr. Hanes received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from MIT and he completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in oncology and neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins prior to his initial faculty appointment in 1998. He joined the Wilmer faculty in 2009. 

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  • Director, Center for Nanomedicine
  • Professor of Ophthalmology
  • Professor of Neurosurgery
  • Professor of Oncology
  • Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • Ph.D.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Massachusetts) (1996)

Additional Training

  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, 1998, Oncology and Neurosurgery

Research & Publications

Research Summary

The Hanes lab is focused on the development of advanced delivery systems to make drugs, vaccines, and nucleic acid based therapies more effective. A focus of our research is to develop the fundamental and applied knowledge needed to create biomaterial-based nanoparticles that overcome long-standing biological barriers and, thereby, enhance the efficiency of drug and nucleic acid delivery to specific sites in the body. To guide our development of improved drug carrier systems, we use state-of-the-art biophysical tools, including high-resolution particle tracking techniques, to quantify the nanoscopic movements of thousands of individual polymeric drug and gene nanocarriers in complex biological environments, especially in tissues such as the brain, extracellular barriers such as mucus gels, and inside live cells. Our lab has used new insights from our fundamental work to develop technologies that have led to the launch of companies that are developing products for humans. One example is the discovery of methods to make nanoparticles that rapidly penetrate human mucus barriers, which has led to new research into the development of nanoparticle-based drugs or nucleic acid therapies to prevent or treat diseases or conditions such as ocular inflammation, cystic fibrosis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, inflammatory bowel disease, lung and cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections, and more. Another example is the discovery of methods to produce biodegradable polymers that contain anti-angiogenic drugs built into the polymeric backbone; these systems are now being developed in industry to treat cancer and ocular diseases like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

Selected Publications

View all on PubMed

Nance E, Timbie K, Miller GW, Song J, Louttit C, Klibanov AL, Shih TY, Swaminathan G, Tamargo RJ, Woodworth GF, Hanes J, Price RJ. Non-invasive delivery of stealth, brain-penetrating nanoparticles across the blood-brain barrier using MRI-guided focused ultrasound. J Control Release. 2014 Sep 10;189:123-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2014.06.031. Epub 2014 Jun 28. PMID: 24979210 [PubMed - in process]

Schuster BS, Kim AJ, Kays JC, Kanzawa MM, Guggino WB, Boyle MP, Rowe SM, Muzyczka N, Suk JS, Hanes J. Overcoming the Cystic Fibrosis Sputum Barrier to Leading Adeno-associated Virus Gene Therapy Vectors. Mol Ther. 2014 Aug;22(8):1484-93. doi: 10.1038/mt.2014.89. Epub 2014 May 29. PMID: 24869933 [PubMed - in process]

Yang M, Lai SK, Yu T, Wang YY, Happe C, Zhong W, Zhang M, Anonuevo A, Fridley C, Hung A, Fu J, Hanes J. Nanoparticle penetration of human cervicovaginal mucus: The effect of polyvinyl alcohol. J Control Release. 2014 Jul 29. pii: S0168-3659(14)00526-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2014.07.045. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 25090196

Birket SE, Chu KK, Liu L, Houser GH, Diephuis BJ, Wilsterman EJ, Dierksen G, Mazur M, Shastry S, Li Y, Watson JD, Smith AT, Schuster BS, Hanes J, Grizzle WE, Sorscher EJ, Tearney GJ, Rowe SM. A Functional Anatomic Defect of the Cystic Fibrosis Airway. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2014 Jul 16. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 25029666 

Yang M, Yu T, Wang YY, Lai SK, Zeng Q, Miao B, Tang BC, Simons BW, Ensign LM, Liu G, Chan KW, Juang CY, Mert O, Wood J, Fu J, McMahon MT, Wu TC, Hung CF, Hanes J. Cancer Therapy: Vaginal Delivery of Paclitaxel via Nanoparticles with Non-Mucoadhesive Surfaces Suppresses Cervical Tumor Growth (Adv. Healthcare Mater. 7/2014). Adv Healthc Mater. 2014 Jul;3(7):1120. doi: 10.1002/adhm.201470037. PMID: 25044457

Contact for Research Inquiries

Smith Building
400 N. Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21287 map
Phone: 443-287-7921
Fax: 410-614-6509

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Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Biomedical Engineering

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Recent News Articles and Media Coverage

Bringing Johns Hopkins Discoveries to the World, Dome (December 2019)

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