Robert E. Sievers

Robert E. Sievers

Analytical, Pharmaceutical and
Environmental Chemistry

Ph.D. University of Illinois, 1960
Director, Environmental Program
Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Office: Ekeley W281B
Phone: 303-492-7943
Web: Global Health Research Group (CIRES) | Environmental Program (University of Colorado at Boulder)

Research Interests

Professor Sievers is studying analytical chemistry, pharmaceutical science, aerosols, microparticles and nanoparticles, inhalable vaccines and antibiotics, and supercritical fluids.

Fundamental and applied studies of the formation of nanoparticle and microparticle aerosols are underway. Carbon dioxide-assisted nebulization provides superior aerosols for various forms of spectroscopy, such as electro-spray ionization, mass spectrometry and atomic absorption. Sievers' students are collaborating with pharmacists and physicians in the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, to develop new methods for delivery of aerosol particles useful in direct and painless administration of therapeutic drugs and vaccines by inhalation. The drugs are dissolved or suspended in supercritical fluids, and unusually small aerosol particles are formed by rapid decompression to facilitate delivery of the aerosol particles to the most distal alveoli and to allow rapid uptake by the lungs. Formation of fine aerosols is expected to become increasingly important in the treatment or vaccination against measles, HPV, influenza, infections, cystic fibrosis, and asthma.

The simultaneous stabilization, drying, and micronization of vaccines, antibodies, proteins, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals and other products of the biotechnology revolution are under study. Two of the fourteen "Grand Challenges identified by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the NIH Foundation as critical to world health are being addressed by the Sievers group: needle-free administration of vaccines (by pulmonary or nasal aerosols), and vaccines that do not need refrigeration for long term storage. Collaborations with groups in India and South Africa have been developed.

Current Research: Improving global health with CIRES-developed aerosol vaccines



A) Puffhaler active dry-powder inhaler; B) Solevent. A mask or a nasal adapter can also be attached when necessary.


In 2012, the CIRES Global Health Group filed for patents to document aerosol innovations that may lead to major advances worldwide in the control of infectious diseases. The invention is to stabilize and dry measles or other live attenuated virus vaccines as microparticles via a process called Carbon dioxide Assisted Nebulization with a Bubble- Dryer (CAN-BD). These microparticles are sealed in high-barrier blister packs or capsules and then opened just before use; active drypowder inhalers disperse the resulting aerosols into the respiratory tracts of humans. The person inhales the fine microparticles through a facemask or tube, and the microparticles deposit on the moist surfaces throughout the respiratory tract; there, the microparticles rapidly dissolve to induce protective immune responses to measles or other diseases. This vaccine delivery system requires no electricity and no water for reconstitution beyond that already in the respiratory tract of each vaccinee. We have demonstrated the system in preclinical trials for measles vaccine, and it is potentially applicable to a wide variety of other vaccines such as, but not limited to, rubella, human papilloma virus, and influenzas. Now underway are Phase I clinical trials of the needle-free dry-powder aerosol measles vaccine developed and stabilized by CIRES and Aktiv- Dry LLC. As of July 1, 2013, there have been no serious adverse events reported for 60 adult male volunteers who inhaled the new aerosol measles vaccine beginning in March 2012. I recruited and led an international team upon being awarded $20 million dollars in one of the 42 grants given by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health through the Grand Challenges in Global Health Program. This program was created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop an inexpensive and effective needle-free aerosol vaccine delivery system that would serve as a transformative platform technology for vaccine delivery. Each member of the team brought special expertise including immunology, virology, toxicology, formulation, supercritical-fluid technology, aerosol and microparticle science, and medicine. We created inventions and filed patents dealing with active dry-powder inhalers, stabilization and formulation, a new excipient (myo-inositol), and drying and micronization. A video of these highlights is available on the Gates Foundation website.


Click here for a complete list of published works »

Honors and Awards

  • Tswett Chromatography Medallist, 1981
  • American Chemical Society Colorado Section Award, 1985
  • Dimick Award in Chromatography, 1992
  • Thomas Jefferson Award, 2001
  • Robert Stearns Award, 2003
  • Pinnacle of Inventorship Award, 2004
  • ACS Astellas Prize in Public Health, 2008
  • Governor's Award for Research Impact, 2009

Dr. Sievers is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.