Shaping the Future of Drug Delivery

The process of drug delivery is often complicated and filled with many obstacles. One important challenge is how to deliver therapeutic compounds only to sites within the body where they are needed. Therapeutics sent to non-diseased regions of the body result in waste and generate the potential for unwanted side effects. As a result, methods for directing therapeutic delivery specifically to diseased tissues are of great interest and utility to the medical community.

In order to address this challenge, Robert Becker and Robert Lee from Bethlehem, PA-based Particle Sciences have undertaken a PITA-funded collaborative research project with researchers Yaling Liu and Christopher Uhl from Lehigh University. Their goal—to develop and test the SATxTM nanoparticle platform for maximal drug delivery to targeted disease tissues or regions—is being realized through a proprietary nanoparticle formulation developed at Particle Sciences, coupled with a microfluidic testing platform developed at Lehigh University.

In order to develop a nanoparticle system that resists non-specific binding (delivery to both healthy and diseased tissues), Particle Sciences uses a proprietary formulation of various polymers that are capable of blocking non-specific adhesion of particles to vessels and cells while still enabling tissue-specific targeting and delivery. To evaluate the effectiveness of these formulations, synthetic blood vessels and cellular monolayers have been used for lab-based testing. The microfluidic system produced in Lehigh University’s lab creates devices containing small channels or tubes on the scale of human vasculature; these are used to recreate human microvasculature outside of the human body.

So far, testing has quantified the amount of non-specific binding observed for the various particle formulations. Formulations that exhibit low levels of non-specific binding are of greatest interest and are now being further optimized for antigen-specific binding and targeting using antibodies bound to the surfaces of SATxTM particles. In the coming months, antibody-coated particle formulations will be tested within the mimicked blood vessel system to maximize nanoparticle targeting of diseased sites while avoiding healthy portions of the vessels.

Overall, this collaborative work aims to provide therapeutic options in which disease targeting can be improved for faster recoveries, all while minimizing the often undesirable side effects associated with many medicines. “It is a great pleasure to see how a research tool developed in a university lab has the ability to be useful for drug carrier development in the pharmaceutical industry,” said Liu. Becker added, “We’ve enjoyed and appreciated our collaborations with Dr. Liu at Lehigh University. The results of their evaluations using their unique technology that mimics vessels have provided unique information regarding how different particulate drug formulations interact with target cells and vessels. We look forward to our continuing collaborative studies.”

Improving drug delivery will be crucial as the health care industry is faced with increasingly difficult challenges in the next few decades. Together, Particle Sciences and Lehigh University hope to begin making incremental progress towards realizing dreams of a better future in medicine.