Jennica Zaro, PhD
Faculty Directory

Jennica ZaroPhD

Jennica ZaroPhD

Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Department of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Jennica Zaro is an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences and assistant dean for assessment in the Office of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Studies. Previously, she was assistant dean for assessment and scholarship and associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at West Coast University School of Pharmacy. Prior to that, she was research assistant professor and a core director of the Translational Research and Histology laboratories at USC Mann. A PhD graduate in Pharmaceutical Sciences from USC Mann, she has held several roles in the pharmaceutical industry, where she has developed formulations for aerosol products and designed and validated analytical methods for protein drugs.

Zaro’s research is focused on targeted drug delivery applications utilizing protein-drug conjugates or recombinant fusion proteins, for which she has been awarded numerous grants and has published more than 30 peer-reviewed research articles and book chapters. She completed the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s Academic Leadership Fellows Program, serves on the Board of Grants for the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education, and has served on several other national and international grant review panels, including the National Institutes of Health and the United Kingdom Medical Research Council.

    Areas of Expertise

    • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
    • Protein Drugs
    • Pharmacology
    • Pharmaceutical Sciences
    • Targeted Drug Delivery
    • Education



      Stockton University


    • Links
    • Research Focus

      Recombinant proinsulin-transferrin fusion protein for liver-targeted insulin therapy

      Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation – Strategic Research Agreement

      2016-2018 Role: Consultant

      Optimization of pH-sensitive Recombinant Peptide Nanoconstructs for Targeted Tumor Delivery

      USC Ming Hsieh Institute for Engineering Medicine for Cancer

      2014-2015 Role: Principal Investigator

      Mildly acidic tumor microenvironment for diagnostic and therapeutic nanomedicine

      NIH National Cancer Institute (1R21CA169841-01A1)

      2013-2016 Role: Principal Investigator

    • Selected Articles

      Acid-sensitive hybrid polymeric micelles containing a reversibly activatable cell-penetrating peptide for tumor-specific cytoplasm targeting

      Journal of Controlled Release

      2018 Cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) have become a novel drug delivery system due to their distinct advantages, including high cell transmembrane potency and ability to carry cargo molecules inside cells. However, owing to their cationic charge and non-specificity characteristics, the clinical application of CPPs is limited.

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      Characterization and Oral Delivery of Proinsulin-Transferrin Fusion Protein Expressed Using ExpressTec

      International Journal of Molecular Sciences

      2018 Proinsulin-transferrin fusion protein (ProINS-Tf) has been designed and successfully expressed from the mammalian HEK293 cells (HEK-ProINS-Tf). It was found that HEK-ProINS-Tf could be converted into an activated form in the liver. Furthermore, HEK-ProINS-Tf was demonstrated as an extra-long acting insulin analogue with liver-specific insulin action in streptozotocin (STZ)-induced type 1 diabetic mice.

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      Characterization of polyelectrolyte complex formation between anionic and cationic poly (amino acids) and their potential applications in pH-dependent drug delivery


      2017 Polyelectrolyte complexes (PECs) are self-assembling nano-sized constructs that offer several advantages over traditional nanoparticle carriers including controllable size, biodegradability, biocompatibility, and lack of toxicity, making them particularly appealing as tools for drug delivery.

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      Single chain Fc-dimer-human growth hormone fusion protein for improved drug delivery


      2017 Fc fusion protein technology has been successfully used to generate long-acting forms of several protein therapeutics. In this study, a novel Fc-based drug carrier, single chain Fc-dimer (sc(Fc)2), was designed to contain two Fc domains recombinantly linked via a flexible linker.

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      Proinsulin–Transferrin Fusion Protein Exhibits a Prolonged and Selective Effect on the Control of Hepatic Glucose Production in an Experimental Model of Type 1 Diabetes

      Molecular Pharmaceutics

      2016 An ideal basal insulin (INS) replacement therapy requires the distribution or action of exogenous INS to more closely mimic physiological INS in terms of its preferential hepatic action. In this paper, we introduce a novel strategy to exert liver-specific INS action by hepatic activation of INS’s precursor, proinsulin (ProINS).

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    • Affiliations
      • Member: Pharmaceutical and Translational Sciences Admissions Committee (USC) - 2020 to present

      • Board of Grants Member: American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education - 2018 to present

      • Member: American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy - 2018 to present

      • Member: Controlled Release Society - 2015 to present

      • Peer reviewed research and/or review articles in various scientific journals including, ACS Nano, Journal of Controlled Release, Molecular Pharmaceutics, Biomaterials, Biomacromolecules, Biotechnology Journal, Journal of Drug Targeting - 2008 to present

      • Member: American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists - 2001 to present

    • Accomplishments

      “Most Innovative” Award

      2017West Coast University

      Advisor of the Year Award

      2017West Coast University, School of Pharmacy

    • Patents

      Methods for Uses of Protein Precursors as Prodrugs

      US Patent 10513563

      Issued 12/24/2019

      Design of pH-sensitive Oligopeptide Complexes for Drug Release under Mildly Acidic Conditions

      No. 61/754,448

      US Provisional Appln

      Single Chain Fc-Dimer-Human Growth Hormone Fusion Protein for Improved Drug Delivery

      No. 62/396,019

      US Provisional Appln

    • Multimedia
      • Jennica Zaro, PhD
      • Jennica Zaro, PhD
    • Selected Media Appearances

      Zaro Joins Faculty

      USC School of Pharmacy | 03/23/2020

      Jennica Zaro, PhD, has joined the faculty of the Department of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences as Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

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