Targeted drug delivery has the potential to greatly improve the therapeutic effect of existing drugs by delivering high doses of a drug to the specific sites where it is required.
The NanoVic award, to Ms Christina Cortez in the University’s Centre for Nano-science and Nanotechnology (CNST), is worth $4000 including a day’s access to commercialisation experts to discuss plans to implement research outcomes.
Ms Cortez is investigating the ‘biofunctionalisation’ of drug-loadable polymer particles and capsules coated with specific monoclonal antibodies to target colorectal cancer cells.
Her work is supervised by nanotechnology pioneer and Australian Research Council Federation Fellow Professor Frank Caruso, Director of the CNST, which is based in the University’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
Ms Cortez’s project builds on a multidisciplinary body of nanobiotechnology research conducted in collaboration with researchers at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Parkville.
She says various nano- and microparticle-based delivery systems are being investigated, small size and drug-loading capability being among key criteria.
“The particles we work with at the CNST are prepared using a layer-by-layer (LbL) approach, where a polymer film of nano-sized thickness is assembled by depositing alternatively charged species on a particle template or core. The core can then be decomposed to form hollow capsules with high loading capabilities,” she says. Professor Caruso is a pioneer of the LbL method of capsule preparation.
Ms Cortez’s findings indicate that LbL nanocapsules biofunctionalised with a monoclonal antibody called huA33 mAb have the potential to target colorectal cancer cells with high specificity, considerably reducing unwanted drug toxicity effects on other tissues or cells.
Her work was recently accepted for publication by the high ranking journal Advanced Materials.
The next step of her project will see Ms Cortez undertake work in Strasbourg, France, on a collaborative research visit funded by the Australian Research Council Nanotechnology Network and the University through the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Particulate Fluids Processing Centre. While in Strasbourg, Ms Cortez will examine the use of biocompatible and biodegradable polymers for preparing capsules.
Ms Cortez’s award was one of three made this year to doctoral candidates at Victorian universities and the second made to a CNST PhD student – Ms Alexandra Angelatos having won a NanoVic award last year for work relating to the release of therapeutics from microcapsules using electromagnetic radiation.