The Advanced Drug Delivery and Drug Targeting Program of the Department of Pharmaceutics at UtrechtUniversity, headed by prof. dr. W.E. Hennink, aims at providing new strategies to solve delivery problems encountered by pharmacologically active compounds. Many candidate drugs that have the desired activity in vitro never make it to the clinic because they are not absorbed, they are rapidly eliminated, they reach locations in the body where they produce serious side effects, and/or they cannot reach the target site.
The core activity of the research group is the design and pre-clinical testing of tailor-made polymeric drug delivery systems for site-specific, time- and/or rate-controlled delivery of small molecular weight drugs, therapeutic proteins, nucleic acids (including DNA and siRNA), and antigens for therapy and prevention of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, inflammation and infectious diseases. The combination of complementary fields of expertise brought together in the research program is unique and includes polymer chemistry, (molecular) biology and pharmacy. It allows the development of novel drug delivery systems from scratch up to the preclinical testing phase. The department of Pharmaceutics has intensive collaborations with academic, industrial, and governmental groups.
The objective of the research program is the rational design of drug/carrier systems. This translates in the following research topics:
- Delivery systems based on synthetic biodegradable polymers and hydrogels suitable for the controlled release of biopharmaceuticals (proteins, peptides, antigens).
- Non-viral gene transfection systems which deliver plasmid DNA or siRNA with high efficiency into the target cell.
- Nanomedicines based on synthetic polymers suitable for the targeted delivery of low molecular weight drugs (particularly anti-inflammatory agents, kinase inhibitors, cytostatic agents, photosensitizers).
- Polymeric scaffolds based on biodegradable polymers for tissue engineering applications.
The group has fully equipped labs for polymer synthesis and for characterization of polymers, hydrogels and nanoparticles. It hosts facilities for in vitro (cell culture) and in vivo (small animal) drug delivery studies. In addition, we have established collaborations with other groups (industrial and academic) concerning advanced analytical techniques and for preclinical and clinical evaluations.