Marianna Foldvari

Professor, School of Pharmacy

Research interests: bio-nanotechnology - novel strategies for improved transdermal delivery systems


Marianna Foldvari is a Professor and served as the Associate Director for research and graduate studies in the past 4 years at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy. Foldvari’s expertise is in pharmaceutics, dosage form and drug delivery system design and pharmaceutical nanotechnology. She has over 20 years of experience as an academic researcher and in research and development in the pharmaceutical industry through technology transfer activities.

Foldvari is an internationally recognized expert in nanomedicine. Her research program focuses on the development of intelligent and non-invasive drug delivery systems design for protein drugs, gene therapy and pharmaceutical development of nano-enabled products.

Foldvari developed Biphasix™, a needle-free drug delivery system for dermal delivery of drugs. Important characteristics of the delivery systems are improved drug encapsulation and drug permeation through the skin.

She is Associate Editor of Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, Editorial Board Member and Hot Topic Editor for Current Drug Delivery, the Journal of Nanomedicine and Biotherapeutic Discovery, the Journal of Bionanoscience and the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding.

She is the founding Director of the American Society for Nanomedicine (ASNM) and the International Society of Nanomedicine (ISNM). She served as board member for Genome Prairie and was a member of the advisory committee to the Prime Minister on Science and Technology and was a Founder of the Canadian Society of Pharmaceutical Sciences (CSPS). She has received the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) Women of Distinction Award and the Sabex Award of Innovation.

Foldvari has authored more than 100 papers and 70 conference presentations and is the inventor on 15 patents. She is a frequently invited speaker at national and international conferences on gene and protein delivery systems and nanomedicine development and applications. She founded two spin-off companies that focus on nanomedicine product development to commercialize technologies that she and her research team have developed.


  • PhD, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Dalhousie University
  • Doctor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Semmelweis Medical University, Budapest, Hungary
  • BSc, Pharmacy, Semmelweis Medical University, Budapest, Hungary

Marianna Foldvari


Non-invasive technologies

The main objectives of Dr Foldvari’s research are to develop new, non-invasive technologies for the delivery and ultra-specific targeting of therapeutic agents into the body and to diseased tissues and to investigate the fundamental properties of these delivery technologies and the cells they target.

Protein delivery system for transdermal delivery

Professor Foldvari created a spin-off company called PharmaDerm to commercialize the Biphasix™ technology, which was later purchased by Helix BioPharma. Biphasic vesicles are complex, multicompartmental systems, in which lipid bilayers entrap a stabilized submicron emulsion.

DNA delivery system for cutaneous gene therapy

Skin is the largest and most accessible organ of the body and is an ideal target for gene therapy. Professor Foldvari’s group is using keratinocytes transfected topically by non-viral delivery systems in the skin as "in situ bioreactors" to produce the therapeutic protein for local and systemic treatment. Professor Foldvari’s gemini surfactant-based nanoparticle delivery platform had led to increased gene expression in the skin. Professor Foldvari formed a company called Forte Pharma Inc. to commercialize this technology.

Research interests

  • Design, fabrication and characterization of non-invasive drug-delivery systems
  • Gene and protein drug delivery
  • Dermal and transdermal drug delivery
  • Development of new treatments for dermatology, immunology/vaccines and neurodegenerative diseases using novel delivery technologies


Recent publications include:

  • Nafissi, Nafiseh; Foldvari, Marianna, “Neuroprotective therapies in glaucoma: II. Genetic nanotechnology tools”, FRONTIERS IN NEUROSCIENCE, 9, (2015)

  • Gharagozloo, Marjan; Rafiee, Amirreza; Chen, Ding Wen;Foldvari, Marianna, “A flow cytometric approach to study the mechanism of gene delivery to cells by gemini-lipid nanoparticles: an implication for cell membrane nanoporation”, JOURNAL OF NANOBIOTECHNOLOGY, 13, (2015)

  • Gharagozloo, Marjan; Majewski, Slawomir; Foldvari, Marianna, “Therapeutic applications of nanomedicine in autoimmune diseases: From immunosuppression to tolerance induction”, NANOMEDICINE-NANOTECHNOLOGY BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE, 11(4), pp1003-1018 (2015)

  • Gunawardana, Thushari; Foldvari, Marianna; Zachar, Tara; Popowich, Shelly; Chow-Lockerbie, Betty; Ivanova, Marina Vaneva; Tikoo, Suresh; Kurukulasuriya, Shanika; Willson, Philip; Gomis, Susantha, “Protection of Neonatal Broiler Chickens Following in ovo Delivery of Oligodeoxynucleotides Containing CpG Motifs (CpG-ODN) Formulated with Carbon Nanotubes or Liposomes”, AVIAN DISEASES, 59(1), pp31-37 (2015)

  • Dong, Chilbert; Badea, Ildiko; Poorghorban, Masoomeh; Verrall, Ronald; Foldvari, Marianna, “Impact of phospholipids on plasmid packaging and toxicity of gemini nanoparticles”, JOURNAL OF MATERIALS CHEMISTRY B, 3(45), pp8806-8822, (2015)

  • Alqawlaq, Samih; Sivak, Jeremy M.; Huzil, J. Torin; Ivanova, Marina V.; Flanagan, John G.; Beazely, Michael A.; Foldvari, Marianna, “Preclinical development and ocular biodistribution of gemini-DNA nanoparticles after intravitreal and topical administration: Towards non-invasive glaucoma gene therapy”, NANOMEDICINE-NANOTECHNOLOGY BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE, 10(8), pp1637-1647 (2014)

  • Nafissi, Nafiseh; Alqawlaq, Samih; Lee, Eric A.; Foldvari, Marianna; Spagnuolo, Paul A.; Slavcev, Roderick A., “DNA Ministrings: Highly Safe and Effective Gene Delivery Vectors”, MOLECULAR THERAPY-NUCLEIC ACIDS, 3, (2014)

  • Gendelman, Howard E.; Balogh, Lajos P.; Bawa, Raj; Bradbury, Michelle; Chang, Esther H.; Chiu, Wah; Farokhzad, Omid; Foldvari, Marianna; Lanza, Gregory; Wang, Kuan, “The 4th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Nanomedicine”, JOURNAL OF NEUROIMMUNE PHARMACOLOGY, 9, S1-S3, (2014)

  • Elsabahy M; Foldvari M, (2013), “Needle-free Gene Delivery Through the Skin: An Overview of Recent Strategies”, Current Pharmaceutical Design, 19: 7301-7315

  • King M; Kumar P; Michel D; Batta R; Foldvari M, (2013), “In vivo sustained dermal delivery and pharmacokinetics of interferon alpha in biphasic vesicles after topical application”, European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, 84: 532-539

  • Moghadam SH.; Saliaj E; Wettig SD.; Dong C; Ivanova MV.; Huzil JT; Foldvari M, (2013), “Effect of Chemical Permeation Enhancers on Stratum Corneum Barrier Lipid Organizational Structure and Interferon Alpha Permeability”, 10: 2248-2260 

  • Alqawlaq S, Huzil JT, Ivanova MV and Foldvari M (2012) Non-viral gene-therapy of glaucoma: Challenges in neuronal nanomedicine development. Nanomedicine (Future Medicine) 7(7):1067-1083.
  • Foldvari M and Kumar P (2012) Recent progress in the application of nanotechnology for the prevention and treatment of human papillomavirus infection. Therapeutic Delivery 3(8):1005-1017.
  • Donkuru M, Wettig SD, Verrall R, Badea I, Foldvari M. (2012) Designing pH-sensitive gemini nanoparticles for non-viral gene delivery into keratinocytes. J Mater Chem 22:6232-6244.
  • Badea I, Wettig S, Virtanen C, Verrall R, Foldvari M. (2012) Topical interferon-γ gene therapy using gemini (dicationic) nanoparticles improves pathophysiological markers of scleroderma in Tsk1/+ mice. Gene Ther 19: 978-987.
  • Ivanova M, Lamprecht C, Loureiro MJ, Huzil T, Foldvari M. (2012)Pharmaceutical characterization of solid and dispersed carbon nanotubes as nanoexcipients. International Journal of Nanomedicine 7:403-415.
  • Huzil T, Sivaloganathan S, Kohandel M , Foldvari M. (2011) Drug delivery through the skin: molecular simulations of barrier lipids to design more effective noninvasive dermal and transdermal delivery systems for small molecules, biologics, and cosmetics. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology 3: 449–462.
  • Lamprecht C, Huzil T, Ivanova M, Foldvari M. (2011) Non-Covalent Functionalization of Carbon Nanotubes with Surfactants for Pharmaceutical Applications A Critical Mini-Review. Drug Delivery Letters 1:45-57.
  • Foldvari M, Badea I, Kumar P, Wettig S, Batta R, King MJ, He Z, Yeboah Z, Gaspar K, Hull P, Shear NH. (2011) Biphasic Vesicles for Topical Delivery of Interferon Alpha in Human Volunteers and Treatment of Patients with Human Papillomavirus Infections. Current Drug Delivery 8:307-319
  • Singh J, Yang P, Michel D, Verrall RE, Foldvari M, Badea I. (2011) Amino Acid-Substituted Gemini Surfactant-Based Nanoparticles as Safe and Versatile Gene Delivery Agents. Current Drug Delivery 8:299-306.
  • Elsabahy M, Nazarali A, Foldvari M. (2011) Non-Viral Nucleic Acid Delivery: Key Challenges and Future Directions. Current Drug Delivery 8:235-244.
  • Foldvari M, Elsabahy M. (2011) Editorial Hot Topic: Nanotechnology Enables Superior Medical Therapies. Current Drug Delivery 8:225-226.
  • Badea I, Virtanen C, Verrall RE, Rosenberg A and Foldvari M. (2011) Effect of topical interferon-γ gene therapy using gemini nanoparticles on pathophysiological markers of cutaneous scleroderma in Tsk/+ mice. Gene Therapy doi:10.1038.
  • Badea I, Shaterian, N. , Foldvari M. (2011) Topical Gene Delivery in Mice Using Gemini Surfactant - Lipid Nanoparticles With and Without Tape Electrode Electroporation. Drug Delivery Letters 1:62-66.
  • Foldvari, M. (2010) Biphasic Vesicles: A Novel Topical Drug Delivery System J. Biomed. Nanotechnol. 6, 543-557
  • Foldvari M, Badea, I, Wettig S, Baboolal D, Kumar P, Creagh AL, Haynes CA (2010) Topical delivery of interferon alpha by biphasic vesicles: evidence for a novel nanopathway across the stratum corneum. Mol. Pharmaceutics 7:751-762.
  • YangP, Singh J, WettigS, Foldvari M, Verrall RE, Badea, B (2010) Enhanced gene expression in epithelial cells transfected with amino-acid substituted gemini nanoparticles. Eur. J. Pharm. Biopharm. 75:311-320.
  • Badea I, Babiuk S, Babiuk L, Foldvari M. (2010) Gemini nanoparticles as a co-delivery system for antigen – CpG oligodeoxynucleotide adjuvant combination. Int. J. Biomed. Nanosci. Nanotechnol. 1:290-307.
  • Kumar, P., Batta, R., LaBine, G., Shen, J., Gaspar, K., Docherty, J., Foldvari, M. (2009) Stabilization of interferon alpha-2b in a topical cream. Pharm. Technol. 33:80-86.
  • Taghavi A, Allan B, Mutwiri G, Foldvari M, Van Kessel A, Willson P, Babiuk L, Potter A, Gomis S. (2009) Enhancement of immunoprotective effect of CpG–ODN by formulation with polyphosphazenes against E. coli septicemia in neonatal chickens. Curr Drug Deliv 6:76–82.
  • Badea I, Wettig S, Verrall R, Foldvari M. (2007) Topical non-invasive gene delivery using gemini nanoparticles in interferon-γ-deficient mice. Eur J Pharm Biopharm 65:414-422.
  • Wang C, Wettig SD, Foldvari M, Verrall RE. (2007) Synthesis, characterization, and use of asymmetric pyrenyl-gemini surfactants as emissive components in DNA–lipoplex systems. Langmuir 23: 8995–9001.
  • Wang C, Li X, Wettig SD, Badea I, Foldvari M, Verrall R. (2007) Investigation of complexes formed by interaction of cationic gemini surfactants with deoxyribonucleic acid. Phys Chem Chem Phys 9:1616–1628.
  • Wettig SD, Badea I, Donkuru M, Verrall RE, Foldvari M. (2007) Structural and transfection properties of amine-substituted gemini surfactant-based nanoparticles. J Gene Med 9:649–658.
  • Wettig SD, Wang C, Verrall RE, Foldvari M. (2007) Thermodynamic and aggregation properties of aza- and imino-substituted gemini surfactants designed for gene delivery. Phys Chem Chem Phys 9:871–877 (appears on front cover).
  • Alcón VL, Baca-Estrada ME, Potter A, Babiuk LA, Kumar P,Foldvari M. (2006). Biphasic lipid vesicles as subcutaneous delivery systems for protein antigens and CpG oligonucleotides. Curr Drug Del 3:129–135.
  • Foldvari M, Badea I, Wettig SD, Verrall R, Bagonluri M. (2006) Structural characterization of novel gemini non-viral DNA delivery systems for cutaneous gene therapy. J Exp Nanosci 1:165–176.
  • Foldvari M, Kumar P, King M, Batta R, Michel D, Badea I, Wloch M. (2006) Gene delivery into human skin in vitro using biphasic lipid vesicles. Curr Drug Deliv 3:89–93.
  • Foldvari M, Wettig S, Badea I, Verrall R, Bagonluri M. (2006) Dicationic gemini surfactant gene delivery complexes contain cubic-lamellar mixed polymorphic phase. Nanotech2:400–403.
  • Alcón V, Baca-Estrada M, Vega-López M, Willson P, Babiuk LA, Kumar P, Hecker R, Foldvari M. (2005). Mucosal delivery of bacterial antigens and CpG oligonucleotides formulated in biphasic lipid vesicles in pigs. AAPS J 7(3) Article 57, E566–571.
  • Badea I, Verrall R, Baca-Estrada M, Tikoo S, Rosenberg A, Kumar P, Foldvari M. (2005) In vivo cutaneous interferon-g gene delivery using novel dicationic (gemini) surfactant–plasmid complexes. J Gene Med 7:1200–1214.
  • Foldvari M, Badea I, Wettig S, Verrall R, Bagonluri M. (2005) Structural characterization of novel micro- and nano-scale non-viral DNA delivery systems for cutaneous gene therapy.Nanotech 1:128–131.
  • Foldvari M, Jaafari MR, Radhi J, Segal D. (2005) Efficacy of the antiadhesin octyl o-(2-acetamido-2-deoxy-β-d-galactopyranosyl)-(1-4)-2-o-propyl-β-d-galactopyranoside (fimbrigal-p) in a rat oral candidiasis model. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 49:2887–2894.
  • Li X, Wettig SD, Wang I, Foldvari M, Verrall, RE. (2005) Synthesis and solution properties of gemini surfactants containing oleyl chains. Phys Chem Chem Phys 7:3172–3178.