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Itís all in the delivery
April 2018
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author
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All kinds of novel ideas have been explored to deliver drugs, genes and the like, particularly when it comes to trying to target cancer cells. From nanospheres to viruses and bacteria to repurposed macrophages to antibody-drug conjugates, many options have come to the table and no doubt many more are yet to be revealed. But there’s one new method of drug delivery being explored that probably hasn’t occurred to most people—a type of cell whose only purpose is to travel through an inhospitable environment seeking out one unique cell among the millions it encounters: sperm.
 
As noted in a recent article in BioTechniques, Oliver Schmidt of the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Dresden, Germany, recently proposed this idea. The challenge, of course, is that with sperm’s only goal being to reach ova, it would need some guidance to hunt down a tumor cell instead.
 
“The idea to use sperm cells coupled to a synthetic component for a better external control fascinated us,” said Mariana Medina-Sanchez, who co-authored a paper with Schmidt reporting the development and testing of their so-called spermbot. “We found that it can also work as a potential drug carrier to treat diseases in the female reproductive tract, as this is the environment sperms are naturally adapted to swim in.”
 
The researchers first designed a sperm-flagella-driven microbiorobot, where they encased bovine sperm inside a magnetic microtube. The researchers then guided the direction of swimming while the sperm propelled the device forward, suggesting that these bots might be useful for assisted reproduction in cases of low sperm count.
 
Later, the team developed a spiral-shaped metal-coated polymer motor to serve as a flagella prosthesis for sperm with low motility. Guided by magnets, this microbot gathered up “stranded” sperm and delivered them along paths directed by the researchers.
 
But the researchers haven’t stopped with reproductive issues in exploring the idea of directing sperm on command. They have noted that sperm possess the ability to absorb large quantities of protein and hydrophilic drugs and that their compact membrane system protects those drugs from dilution by body fluids and detection by the immune system and degradation enzymes. One of the areas, therefore, that Schmidt and his team have great interest is in seeing if spermbots might provide the ideal means of precisely targeted drug delivery for gynecological cancers.
 

Patching’ the problem of chemo-induced emesis
 
NEW YORK—ChemioCare USA Inc. recently announced it will be leveraging novel transdermal patch technology for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, a therapeutic area with significant unmet medical needs, most notably in the delayed emesis segment. Patients in this segment suffer from poor quality of life and broad patient compliance issues related to intravenous and oral dosing. ChemioCare transdermal patch technology could potentially improve treatment outcomes and improve patient compliance.
 
The company is founded by industry-executive Pedro Lichtinger, who will serve as chairman and CEO, and by Dr. Fotios Plakogiannis, who operates a development laboratory in Long Island City. Lichtinger said about the strategy for ChemioCare, “We have multiple shots on goal with a low technical and clinical risk and a fast path to market. We are reformulating well-known generic drugs with the objective of achieving on-label meaningful improvements. Our development programs are designed to follow the 505(b)2 pathway and require a relatively low financial investment. I am excited to leverage my experience and our proprietary patch formulations to impact patient outcomes and quality of life while creating significant value for our shareholders.”
 
ChemioCare plans to reformulate four standard-of-care and guideline-recommended generic antiemetics. Each patch has a target of two to three key differentiators from the current oral and IV formulations. The expectation is that at least one of the differentiators will be on-label, intended to address patient outcomes and quality of life. In addition, the company plans to design combination patches aimed at improving guideline adherence and improving patient outcomes, and has the long-term option of expanding labels of each patch to other indications.
 

Recipharm and Altus Formulation collaborate
 
STOCKHOLM—Recipharm, a contract development and manufacturing organization, has signed a licensing agreement with Altus Formulation Inc., a Canadian drug development company, to allow its customers to access new drug delivery technologies and products. Under the terms of the agreement, Recipharm will co-develop new value-added medicines for its customers utilizing Altus’ patented Intellitab and Flexitab drug delivery technologies.
 
Intellitab is a novel misuse and abuse deterrent technology that mitigates the dangers of over-exposure to opioids that can occur due to inadvertent or deliberate tampering with immediate-release or extended-release narcotics.
 
Flexitab is a commercially validated extended-release technology enabling alcohol-resistant tablets that maintain their performance after breaking to generate bio-equivalent lower strength tablets.
 

Ultrathin needles deliver drugs directly to the brain
 
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—MIT researchers have devised a miniaturized system that can deliver tiny quantities of medicine to brain regions as small as 1 cubic millimeter. This type of targeted dosing could make it possible to treat diseases that affect very specific brain circuits, without interfering with the normal function of the rest of the brain, the researchers say.
 
Using this device, which consists of several tubes contained within a needle about as thin as a human hair, the researchers can deliver one or more drugs deep within the brain, with very precise control over how much drug is given and where it goes. In a study of rats, they found that they could deliver targeted doses of a drug that affects the animals’ motor function.
 
“We can infuse very small amounts of multiple drugs compared to what we can do intravenously or orally, and also manipulate behavioral changes through drug infusion,” said Canan Dagdeviren, the LG Electronics Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and the lead author of the paper, which appeared in the Jan. 24 issue of Science Translational Medicine.
 
“We believe this tiny microfabricated device could have tremendous impact in understanding brain diseases, as well as providing new ways of delivering biopharmaceuticals and performing biosensing in the brain,” added Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and one of the paper’s senior authors.
 
Code: E041830

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