Graduation Date

Fall 12-18-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Howard E. Gendelman

Second Advisor

Dr. Bhavesh D. Kevadiya


Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has improved the quality and duration of life for people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. However, limitations in drug efficacy, the emergence of viral mutations and the paucity of cell-tissue targeting remain. We posit that to maximize ART potency and therapeutic outcomes newer drug formulations that reach HIV cellular reservoirs need to be created. In a step towards achieving this goal we discovered the aggregation-induced emission (AIE) property of the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor Rilpivirine (RPV) and used it as a platform for drug cell and subcellular tracking. RPV nanocrystals were created with endogenous AIE properties enabling the visualization of intracellular particles in cell and tissue-based assays. The intact drug crystals were easily detected in CD4+ T cells and macrophages, the natural viral target cells, by flow cytometry and ultraperformance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. We conclude that AIE can be harnessed to monitor cell biodistribution of selective antiretroviral drug nanocrystals.