Joel Balkaran
DPhil Student
College: St. Edmund Hall
Location: Institute of Biomedical Engineering
Site: Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre
Research Building: Botnar Research Centre

Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, Joel graduated cum laude from Harvard College (Cabot House ’20) with an SB in Engineering Science. During his time there, he conducted research in the laboratory of Prof. Samir Mitragotri under the supervision of Dr. Eden Tanner, culminating his his senior thesis investigating the use of ionic liquids for transdermal delivery of hydrocortisone-loaded nanoparticles for sustained atopic dermatitis treatment.

Joel joined BUBBL in October 2020 as a DPhil student, working under the joint supervision of Profs. Robert Carlisle and Constantin Coussios. His research involves needle-free vaccination using ultrasound and biodegradable cavitation nuclei. His program is funded by the All Souls Hugh Springer Memorial Fellowship, as well as the generous benefaction of Mr. Donald Porteous, and he is a member of St. Edmund Hall.

Joel’s research focuses primarily on drug delivery applications, especially non-invasive transdermal delivery. His investigations have covered a broad range of technologies – from nanoparticle fabrication for tuned drug release to the use of unique solvents like ionic liquids to facilitate delivery to the skin.

His DPhil at Oxford centers on fabricating biodegradable sonosensitive cavitation nuclei (PCaNs) that can be exposed to low-intensity focused ultrasound to facilitate transdermal drug and vaccine delivery. His project aims to provide a compelling vaccine administration alternative to needle-based injections for vaccinations, through the pain-free, quick, and non-invasive means of cavitation-induced delivery. Woefully inadequate supplies of vaccines have proven to be a problem in dealing with global health crises, and thus a novel method that can deliver the vaccine to an immune responsive organ like the skin can help to address such a crisis more quickly in the future.


  • Ultrasound field design and monitoring
  • Micro- and Nano-Scale Cavitation Nuclei Formulation: Designing a biodegradable bubble-trapping particle that can facilitate ultrasound-based drug delivery.
  • Solvent Design: Determining the optimal solvent composition for clinical application of a drug and cavitating particle formulation.

Sonosensitive Cavitation Nuclei – A Customisable Platform Technology for Enhanced Therapeutic Delivery. Lyons, B., Balkaran, J.P.R., et al. Molecules, November 2023

Cavitation‐mediated Transcutaneous Delivery of Protein and Nucleotide‐based Antigen for Rapid High‐level Immune Responses. Hettinga, J.K., Lyons, B., Balkaran, J.P.R., et al. Advanced Therapeutics, August 2023.

Hill, C., Grundy, M., Bau, L., Wallington, S., Balkaran, J., et al. Polymer Stealthing and Mucin-1 Retargeting for Enhanced Pharmacokinetics of an Oncolytic Vaccinia Virus, Molecular Therapy Oncolytics, June 2021.

Qi, Q., Duffy, M., Curreri, A., Balkaran, J., Tanner, E., Mitragotri, S. Comparison of Ionic Liquids and Chemical Permeation Enhancers for Transdermal Drug Delivery, Advanced Functional Materials, November 2020

Tanner, E., Curreri, A., Balkaran, J., Selig-Wober, N., Yang, A., Kendig, C., Fluhr, M., Kim, N., Mitragotri, S. Design Principles of Ionic Liquids for Transdermal Drug Delivery, Advanced Materials, July 2019

Balkaran, J., Ionic Liquid-Nanoparticle Sustained Delivery of Hydrocortisone for Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis. SB Bioengineering Capstone Thesis, published to Harvard Archive, April 2020.

All Souls Hugh Springer Graduate Scholarship

Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy

2021-present: 3rd Year B-paper tutor – B18 Biomedical Montoring and Modelling

2023-present: Lead tutor for B18 Biomedical Monitoring and Modelling

2022-present: Academic Skills Advisor at Christ Church College

2023-present: Laboratory Demonstrator for departmental courses

Ultrasound and biodegradable cavitation nuclei for needle-free vaccination. Balkaran, J.P.R., et al, European Symposium on Ultrasound Contrast-Enhanced Imaging, Rotterdam, Jan 2024.

Biodegradable cavitation nuclei and low-intensity focussed ultrasound as a needle-free vaccine platform technology. Balkaran, J.P.R., et al, International Society for Therapeutic Ultrasound and European Focused Ultrasound Charitable Society joint conference, Lyon. April 2023

Needle-free delivery of DNA using biodegradable cavitation nucleation agents. Balkaran, J.P.R. et al, Genetic Vaccines for Infectious Disease Summit, Boston. May 2022

Gas-Stabilizing Solid Cavitation Nuclei for Systemic or Transdermal Ultrasound Enhanced Drug and Vaccine Delivery and Immunomodulation. Lyons, B., Hettinga, J.K., Balkaran, J.P.R., et al. Acoustical Society of America, Seattle, November 2021

Deep Eutectic Solvents for Improved Allergen Testing. TUM Summer Research Symposium. Balkaran, J.P.R, August 2019