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Lai is an Associate Professor and Director of Pharmacoengineering at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy overseeing a dynamic group working at the interface of engineering, immunology and drug delivery. Previously, he helped pioneer the development of mucus-penetrating particles, a breakthrough that formed the basis of Kala Pharmaceuticals, which has since completed multiple successful Phase III clinical trials, filed NDA in early 2018, and went IPO in 2017. His research has spun out a number of startups the past few years, including Mucommune, Inhalon Biopharma, and AI Tracking Solutions.