Welcome to the World of Nanomedicines
Bioresponsive Polymer Therapeutics: Synthesis and Characterisation of Novel Nanomedicines

EPSRC Platform Grant 2006 – 2010

To fully exploit the potential of nanomedicines requires a multi-disciplinary approach.


There is an urgent need to convert the rapidly increasing understanding of the genetic basis of disease (through genomics and proteomics research) into improved treatments for the major causes of mortality (cancer, cardiovascular diseases, infectious and) and chronic debilitating diseases caused by tissue degneration during aging. Not only will improved diagnostics and medicines improve quality of life, they will help to reduce the healthcare budget. Approval of > 12 polymer therapeutic products as medicines suggests that there is a real hope that second generation technologies to treat a broader range of diseases will deliver healthcare benefits. To maximise therapeutic activity and ensure safety, it is clear that rational design of constructs must take into account of the pathophysiology of the target disease and the desired pharmacokinetics and intracellular trafficking construct. Molecular (nano) level characterisation of constructs and definition of their biological structure-activity relationships is an essential next step. Our combined expertise in physicochemical analysis/colloid chemistry will ensure molecular characterisation of the constructs in solution and at appropriate bio-interfaces.

Nanotechnology and “nanomedicine” in particular, are areas of growing importance [1,2], . Nanomedicine - defined as the science and technology of diagnosing, treating and preventing disease and traumatic injury, of relieving pain, and of preserving and improving human health, using molecular tools and molecular knowledge of human body - has 5 distinct themes; (i) analytical techniques and diagnostic tools, (ii) nano-imaging and manipulations, (iii) nanomaterials and nanodevices, (iv) design of nanomedicines, drug delivery, pharmaceutical development and (v) clinical use and toxiciological issues. The research being carried out here cuts across all 5 of these themes.

Nanomedicines include nanosized polymer-based therapeutics, imaging agents and nanoparticles [3]. The last decade has seen the first water-soluble polymer constructs enter clinical development and in specific cases, also routine clinical use as parenterally administered polymeric drugs, polymer-drug conjugates, polymer-protein conjugates, and self-assembling block-copolymer micelles. Research funded by this award is developing polymer therapeutics for the treatment of degenerative diseases associated with aging (arthritis and age-related macular degeneration), as well as more general concepts.

A number of short term scoping projects are running, with different researchers contributing various levels to each project. Each project will include elements of the three mainstays of the Platform – biological testing and in vitro biological optimisation fedding back into the synthesis of next generation therapeutics. A “team-based” working promotes cross-fertilisation and training. Much of the work revolves around the use of central facilities (neutron scattering and reflection), and the associated parallel methodology present in the particular groups laboratories (X-ray scattering & reflection, NMR, EPR etc). This multi-technique approach is particularly powerful and works well with the prevailing support of the large, and well-founded existing research teams of the co-applicants. Each project will be closed once the appropriate level of understanding e.g. proof of concept, has been reached.

[1] Commission of the European Communities (2004) Communication: Towards a European Strategy for Nanotechnology, Brussels, COM 338
[2] Editorial (2003) Nanomedicine: grounds for optimism. The Lancet, 362, 673; www.nanomedicnenihroadmap.nih.gov
[3] R. Duncan (2003) The Dawning Era of Polymer Therapeutics. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 2(5),347-360