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Zahraa Al Ahmady

Zahraa Al-Ahmady

Associate Professor

School of Science & Technology


  • Associate Professor (teaching and research) at Nottingham Trent University
  • Honorary research fellow at the University of Manchester

Career overview

Dr Zahraa Al-Ahmady obtained her BSc Degree in Pharmacy with a distinction from the College of Pharmacy, University of Baghdad in 2004. After training as a clinical pharmacist, she was awarded a scholarship to study the Masters in Drug Delivery at the UCL School of Pharmacy, where she won the AstraZeneca Prize for the best overall performance. Zahraa completed her PhD studies with the Nanomedicine Lab at UCL School of Pharmacy on the design, characterization and biological performance of temperature-sensitive vesicles for cancer therapy in 2012. She then joined the NANOSOLUTIONS (FP7-NMP) European project as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Manchester. Her work was mainly focused on the structure – biological function relationship that determines the safety of engineered nanomaterials. Following that she worked as a research fellow with the North West Centre of Advanced Drug Delivery (NoWCADD), a join post between the division of pharmacy at the University of Manchester, the Nanomedicine Lab and AstraZeneca, working on the development of innovative therapeutic and in vivo imaging approaches.

Research areas

Dr Zahraa Al-Ahmady explores effective and efficient delivery approaches for therapeutics using novel drug delivery vectors. While the delivery of therapeutics to their site of action (e.g. tumour and brain) is ideal, the understanding of their biodistribution, pharmacokinetics and toxicological profiles in vivo is very crucial at this stage of their development and for clinical use. Dr Al-Ahmady used different diseased animal models to study these parameters and test the therapeutic efficacy of drug molecules and macromolecules delivered by novel selective delivery vectors. Her work provides a useful link between Pharmacology, Nanomedicines & Biomaterials which encourages multidisciplinary interaction and future collaborations.

Current Research Areas:

Nanomedicine Based Platforms for Selective Drug Delivery to Stroke

Stroke (ischemic or haemorrhagic) is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, yet treatment options are extremely limited and represent an area of unmet clinical need. At present, restoration of blood flow by thrombolysis for ischaemic stroke is the only licensed treatment, however this is hampered by a very short therapeutic window (<4h) and includes a high risk of haemorrhage. Despite decades of active experimental and clinical research, the development of effective pharmacological treatment for stroke is facing repeated translational failures. Drug delivery to the brain has long been the technical obstacle limiting treatment because of the protective nature of the blood brain barrier (BBB). Therefore, the development of new technologies in this area can offer new hope to existing therapeutics that suffer from inefficient brain delivery and/or unfavourable distribution and safety profile. We are currently investigating if brain damage after stroke alters the nature of BBB and also establishing the mechanism and time-frame for such alterations. By designing novel therapeutic platforms that can target these mechanisms we believe we can effectively translocate drug molecules into the lesioned brain after stroke and thus maximise therapeutic effectiveness.

Novel Therapeutic Approaches for Stroke-Associated Infections

Stroke-associated infections (SAI) constitute a very common and serious complication affecting one third of stroke survivors and correlate with a poor outcome and increased mortality. There is now an increasing evidence that SAI have a strong correlation with stroke-induced impairment to the systemic immune response. Unfortunately, no effective treatment is currently available to mitigate this risk. Moreover, the results of two recent randomized phase III clinical trials using prophylactic antibiotics demonstrated no clear benefits. Therefore, we are interested to develop novel therapeutic approaches that can ameliorate the immune system dysfunction after stroke and thus could tackle SAI.

Engineering Advanced Drug Delivery for Cancer

Nanocarriers have demonstrated great potential to control collateral damage and improve biodistribution of a variety of chemotherapeutic agents. A phenomenon that is key to enable this performance improvement is the preferential accumulation of nanocarriers into cancerous tissues due the hyperpermeability of the tumour blood vessels. To date, several nanomedicine-based cancer medications are clinically used, and many others are in different stages of clinical trials. Our work to date has highlighted other aspects with nanocarriers technology that require further improvement such as the heterogeneous distribution of nanomedicines into the tumour and the inefficient drug release. We aim to solve these problems by engineering multifunctional nanocarriers that combine real-time imaging and triggered release to achieve precise and efficient cancer therapy.

Opportunities arise to carry out postgraduate research towards an MPhil / PhD in the areas identified above. Further information may be obtained on the NTU Research Degrees website

If you have an interest in carrying out a PhD in the research areas listed above or any related areas, please feel free to contact me ( for further information.

External activity


Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences.


- Prof Stuart Allan's Group, University of Manchester UK.

- Dr Ingo Schiessl's Group, University of Manchester, UK.

- Dr Laura McCulloch, University of Edinburgh, UK.

- Dr Barry McColl's Group, University of Edinburgh, UK.

- Prof Claire Gibson Group, Nottingham University, UK.

- Dr Claire Seedhouse Group, Nottingham University, UK.

- Prof Sergio Rutella Group, Nottingham Trent University, UK.

- Dr Firas Al-Kaisi, University Hospital of Derby and Burton, UK.

- Dr Dean Smith, Nottingham University Hospitals, UK.

- Dr James Choi, Imperial College, UK.


Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Ben Dickie, Isabelle Aldred, Dhifaf Jasim, Jack Barrington, Michale Haley, Elosie Lemarchand, Graham Coutts, Satinderdeep Kaur, Jessica Bates, Sarah Curran, Ruth Goddard, Megan Walker, Adrian Parry-jones, Kostas Kostarelos, Stuart Allan. Selective Brain Entry of Lipid Nanoparticles in Haemorrhagic Stroke is Linked to Biphasic Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption, Theranostics (2022), IF 11.56.

Satinderdeep Kaur, Stuart M. Allan, Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady. Re-directing Nanomedicines to the Spleen: A Potential Technology for Peripheral Immunomodulation, J. of Controlled-Release (2022), IF 9.7.

Audrey Gallud, Mathilde Delaval, Pia Kinaret, Giovanni Scala, Veersingh Marwah, Jimmy Ytterberg, Roman Zubarev, Tiina Skoog, Juha Kere, Manuel Correia, Katrin Loeschner, Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Jaime Ruiz, Didier Astruc, Marco Monopoli, Richard, Handy, Sergio Moya, Kai Savolainen, Harri Alenius, Dario Greco, Bengt Fadeel. Multi-parametric profiling of a large panel of engineered nanomaterials points to surface chemistry as a key determinant of nanomaterial Effects, Advanced Science (2020), IF 16.8.

Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady ,Dhifaf Jasim, Sabahuddin Syed Ahmad, Raymond Wong, Michael Haley, Graham Coutts, Stuart M. Allan, Kostas Kostarelos. Selective Liposomal Transport Through Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption in Ischaemic Stroke Reveals Two Distinct Therapeutic Opportunities, ACS Nano (2019), IF 15.88.

Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Roberto Donno, Arianna Gennari, Aleksandr Mironov, Jayne Lawrence, Nicola Tirelli, Marianne Ashford, Kostas Kostarelos. Enhanced Intra-Liposomal Metallic Nanoparticle Payload Capacity sing Microfluidics Assisted Self-Assembly Langmuir (2019), IF 3.88,

Marilena Hadjidemetriou, Sarah McAdam, Grace Garner, Chelsey Thackeray, David Knight, Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Mariarosa Mazza, Jane Rojan, Andrew Clamp and Kostas Kostarelos. The human in vivo Nanoparticle Protein Corona in Ovarian Carcinoma Patients, Advanced Materials (2019), IF 30.85.

Marilena Hadjidemetriou, Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Maurizio Buggio, Joe Swift and Kostas Kostarelos. A Novel Scavenging Tool for Cancer Biomarker Discovery Based on the Blood-Circulating Nanoparticle Protein Corona, Biomaterials (2019), IF 12.48.

Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Marilena Hadjidemetriou, James Gabbins, Kostas Kostarelos. Formation of Protein Corona in vivo Affects Drug Release from Temperature-Sensitive Liposomes, Journal of Controlled Release (2018), IF 9.77.

Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Neus Lozano, Kuo-Ching Mei, Wafa’ T. Al- Jamal, Kostas Kostarelos. Engineering of Thermosensitive Liposome-Nanoparticle Hybrids Loaded with Doxorubicin for Heat-Triggered Drug Release, International Journal of Pharmaceutics (2016), IF 5.87.

Marilena Hadjidemetriou, Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Kostas Kostarelos. Time-evolution of in vivo Protein Corona onto Blood-Circulating PEGylated Liposomal Doxorubicin (DOXIL) Nanoparticles, Nanoscale (2016), IF 7.7.

Marilena Hadjidemetriou, Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Mariarosa Mazza, Kostas Kostarelos. In vivo Biomolecule Corona around Blood-Circulating, Clinically-Used and Antibody-Targeted Lipid Bilayer Nanoscale Vesicles, ACS Nano (2015), IF 15.88.

Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Cheryl L Scudamore, Kostas Kostarelos. Triggered Doxorubicin Release in Solid Tumours from Thermosensitive Liposome-Peptide Hybrids: Critical Parameters and Therapeutic Outcomes, International Journal of Cancer (2015), IF 7.4

Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Olivier Chaloin, Kostas Kostarelos. Monoclonal antibody-targeted, temperature-sensitive liposomes: in vivo tumor chemotherapeutics in combination with mild hyperthermia, Journal of Controlled Release (2014), IF 9.77.Zahraa S. Al-Ahmady, Wafa' T. Al-Jamal, Tam T. Bui, Alex F. Drake, James Mason, Jeroen V. Bossche, Kostas Kostarelos. Lipid-Peptide Vesicle Nanoscale Hybrids for Triggered Drug Release by Mild Hyperthermia in vitro and in vivo, ACS Nano (2012), 15.88.

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