Kristin: The first plenary speaker for COMS2009 is Prof Frank Caruso from the University of Melbourne. While is seems excessive to travel all the way to Copenhagen to hear Frank speak, he also has ties to Europe through his PhD studies in Sweden and in co-founding the German-based company Capsulution .
One of Frank’s specialty areas is drug delivery. Particle systems can be effective delivery vehicles and there are a wide range of nano-based carriers for cancer detection and therapy. Some current particle systems include:
- Dendrimers – VivaGel® from Starpharma for the prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases
- Liposomes –Doxil® for the treatment of recurring ovarian cancer
- Inorganic particles
- Polymeric vehicles
- Virus-like particles – including the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil®
But these are all highly specialised applications. Is there such a thing as an ideal drug delivery system that can transport a number of drugs? The work that Prof Frank Caruso and his team are doing is aimed at developing such a carrier particle. They have been producing nano-engineered capsules through a layer by layer deposition of polymers over an initial seed particle. They then remove the particle to produce a controlled hollow carrier. This work has resulted in the formation of the company Capsulution based in Germany which is looking at nanoparticles to cross blood brain barriers, sustained release of drugs to treat chronic and inflammatory eye disease, and drug-eluting stents.
A further research interest is peptide & oligo nucleoride delivery. What they then do with the hollow carrier particles is to load the capsules with peptides (more complicated than it sounds!). It might then be possible to use these encpsulated peptide systems to trigger immune responses through the activation of T-cells.
Frank makes a number of observations about his work:
- Major advances in treating disease will come from smarter delivery systems and not just the development of new small drugs.
- Multidisciplinary approaches are required to address challenges in nanomedicine.
- Engineering structures of materials at the nanoscale affords new therapeutic and diagnostic systems.
This is still research phase work but it is interesting to consider what else might stem from the ability to create a hollow carrier that can be used across a range of medical applications.