Ijeoma Uchegbu

Ijeoma Uchegbu was elected as an AAS Fellow in 2019. As a fellow, Ijeoma Uchegbu contributes to the development of the Academy’s strategic direction through participation in AAS activities and governance structures. . This gears the Academys vision of transforming african lives through science.

United Kingdom
Year elected
Medical & Health Sciences

Ijeoma Uchegbu FMedSci is UCL’s Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanoscience, a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, a governor on the Wellcome board (one of the largest biomedical sciences research charities in the world), a member of the Academy of Medical Sciences Council and Chief Scientific Officer of Nanomerics Ltd, a UCL spin out company.   She has served as Chair of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences and chaired EPSRC and Science Foundation Ireland grant prioritisation panels.  Uchegbu is the immediate past UCL Provost’s Envoy for Race Equality, a role in which she led on race equality work at UCL.  Her initiatives (e.g. Dean’s Pledges on Race Equality) were instrumental in achieving UCL’s Bronze Race Charter in 2020.  Uchegbu has also presented to the UK House of Commons on the educational racial disparities that lead to a lack of ethnic minority representation in scientific research.       

She has studied the mechanisms of drug transport across biological barriers and created transformational drug transport nanoparticles.  She was the first to show that peptides could be delivered across the blood brain barrier to elicit a pharmacological response, when presented as peptide drug nanofibers and the first to demonstrate, via definitive pharmacology and pharmacokinetics evidence, peptide transport into the brain, using peptide nanoparticles delivered via the nose to brain route.  These findings led to  the enkephalin pain medicine candidate Envelta™, which was designed to address the opioid crisis.  In preclinical studies, Envelta™ showed no analgesic tolerance, reward seeking behaviour or potential to cause significant constipation.  Envelta has been out licensed to Virpax Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:VRPX) and is currently being developed by the US National Center for Advancing Translational Studies.  If successful, this will be the first neuropeptide medicine approval and it will have been made possible by the innovation originating in Uchegbu’s group.  

The technology underpinning Envelta™ won first prize in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies competition in 2017 and the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences Science Innovation Award in 2016.  Three other medicine candidates based on this nanotechnology have been out-licensed to pharmaceutical companies in the US.   

Uchegbu has also won numerous prizes for her work and these include: the UK Government’s Women of Outstanding Achievement in Science, Engineering and Technology 2007, Royal Pharmaceutical Society Pharmaceutical Scientist of the Year 2012, Special Recognition Business of Science Leadership Award 2023 and others.   

Uchegbu’s work has been funded continuously for 21 years by the EPSRC and she serves on the BBSRC Council.  Uchegbu is the immediate past Pro Vice Provost for Africa and the Middle East and in this role Uchegbu led on the international research and teaching engagement strategy in this region.