Hydrogel Microparticle Networks for the Controlled Delivery of Nanomedicines

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Chemistry


This proposal seeks to combine the advantages of nanomedicines with the proven benefits of sustained drug release, addressing a global unmet need. This will be achieved through the design and development of a new type of implantable drug delivery system which releases drug-containing nanoparticles into the circulation. Such a technology would offer vast benefits for those patients who require long-term treatment. By combining recent developments in materials science, materials chemistry and nanomedicine, options will be studied that may act as future platforms for implantable nanomedicine release systems.

Poor compliance, the improper following of a doctor's treatment recommendations is expected for 50% of patients suffering from chronic diseases. The resulting implications of poor compliance are increased ill-health, increased likelihood of negative consequences and the possibly of the disease developing a resistance to the treatment. Poor compliance is a very serious problem, it has been estimated that in the European Union 194,500 deaths a year can be attributed to poor compliance.

It is possible to entrap a drug within a material, which can then be implanted in the body to slowly release the drug. Such materials are known as implantable drug delivery systems and can be designed to give sustained drug release over extended periods of time, therefore removing the need for the patient to take repeated drug doses. Implantable drug delivery systems have been shown to be medically very successful in the delivery of contraceptives and for the treatment of a range of diseases including cancer. In addition to removing the problem of poor patient compliance, implantable drug delivery systems can be configured to release drug directly into the surrounding tissue avoiding one of the main issues with orally taken drugs that are prevented from reaching blood circulation (first pass metabolism). In general, patient groups that suffer from poor compliance welcome implantable devices that aid the attainment of positive outcomes from their therapies.

While implantable drug delivery systems have been demonstrated for the release of conventional drugs such as small molecules and biopharmaceuticals, release of drugs in the form of nanomaterials (materials with one dimension less than 1000 nm) from implantable drug delivery systems has never been demonstrated. The use of nanomaterials to deliver drugs is known as Nanomedicine, a field that has undergone rapid growth in the past decade. The vast majority of nanomedicines are administered to patients intravenously or orally and therefore currently need to be repeatedly re-administered to maintain the correct drug concentration in the body. Nanomedicine has been found to offer numerous advantages in therapeutic treatment, derived from the properties of the nanomaterials; including enhanced uptake of the drug into the blood stream, reduced side effects and improved delivery of the drug to where it is needed. Currently there are over 40 nanomedicines in clinical use, and over another 100 nanomedicines in medical trials. It is therefore likely that the use of nanomedicines will become more widespread in medicine in the future.

This proposal aims to provide a proof of concept system to address the serious issue of poor patient compliance, for the delivery of present and future nanomedicines, with the goal of attracting further developmental and research activities in order to progress towards actual patient benefits.

Planned Impact

The key focus of this proposal is the design and synthesis of a proof of concept platform technology; a system based on hydrogel microparticle networks that allow the tuneable controlled release of nanomedicines. Once this hypothesis has been proven, further research can be undertaken to develop systems for applying controlled release of nanomedicines to specific diseases. The impact of this proposal covers a range of economic and societal beneficiaries.

The results of this work will be commercially protected where appropriate and future proposals will build on this research with potential to generate a significant commercial opportunity for the UK. These opportunities will initially arise either through a spin-out company (UoL has a history of spin out activities) or through direct engagement with industry. Future value will be derived from the production of a series of medical devices, tailored to specific clinical needs within different diseases that may be sold internationally.

The ability to produce long-term sustained release of nanomedicines impacts heavily on healthcare, the issue of poor patient compliance can be avoided with its associated increased morbidity and mortality rates (an estimated 194,500 deaths a year in the EU). Further societal impact may be realised by applying the controlled release system to a range of acute and chronic conditions including infectious disease and long term disorders. For example antipsychotic nanomedicines have a direct compliance issue and maximising treatment adherence in psychotic patients would help to avoid associated violent crime and suicide risks associated with schizophrenics.
Description From this funding we developed a new way to making a long-acting drug delivery system. This concept is based on an injectable dispersion of nanoparticles that forms a solid implant upon injection into the body. This in situ formation behaviour was achieved by designing nanoparticles that responded to the conditions inside the body. This drug delivery system will provide long-acting drug delivery that may be used to address the issues of poor medication adherence.

This technology has been the foundation of a successful EPSRC grant proposal that will commence in 2019. This project will develop the technology and will undertake the preclinician evaluation required to enable future human trials.
Exploitation Route This technology may be utilised by other researchers to develop other long-acting drug delivery systems. The dual-responsive behaviour of the nanoparticles may also be of interest for other applications.
Sectors Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL http://pubs.rsc.org/-/content/articlehtml/2017/nr/c6nr07858c
Description We have engaged with clinicians regarding the potential benefits of the technology for long-acting drug delivery. One clinician has since supported our recent successful EPSRC grant proposal with a letter of support.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Healthcare
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account grant
Amount £4,420 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 03/2017
Description EPSRC Institutional Sponsorship Award
Amount £10,113 (GBP)
Funding ID 142601 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 03/2017
Description EPSRC Vacation Bursary
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2016 
End 08/2016
Description HT Investigator-led proposal
Amount £1,164,641 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S012265/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 04/2022
Description Established a collaboration with Eye and Vision Science at the University of Liverpool 
Organisation University of Liverpool
Department Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We designed materials that would provide long-acting drug delivery behaviour that might be possible for use in ocular drug delivery.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have provided the biological insight that allows us to effectively design the drug delivery systems.
Impact This collaboration resulted in a new grant for development of long-acting drug delivery systems. EP/S012265/1
Start Year 2018