Drug Delivery and Nanomedicine

At UBC Pharm Sci, our researchers are leading the way with advancements in pharmaceutical treatment. Our research in nanomedicine is adding tools to our toolkit for treating disease, offering powerful and precise ways of delivering the just-right amount of drugs to the just-right part of the body. Because nanoparticles can actually improve the way a drug works, this area of research is key to the advancement and betterment of drug therapy.

The Right Place. The Right Time. Every Time.

Drug delivery research aims to improve our ability to target and control the release of therapeutic agents. Although we have made major strides in specific molecular therapies in recent decades, many drugs still cause unwanted side effects in areas of the body that aren't targeted for therapy. This is a problem because even though a drug may be highly effective, unwanted side effects may limit our ability to use it to its full potential in treating diseases. Cancer is a good example of this limitation. Drug delivery systems provide a way to target therapeutic agents to specific locations in the body, minimizing their contact with tissues that don't require treatment. Drug delivery systems can also control the rate at which a drug is released by providing the exact needed amount continuously over a preset treatment time.

Nanomedicine is the medical discipline that investigates the use of nanotechnological devices in medicine. These devices typically range from 10–200 nm up to a few micrometres in size, and include nano- and microparticles, nanotubes and quantum dots. Nanotechnological devices are made from metals, polymers, lipids and anorganic substances as well as from macromolecules such as dendrimers, antibodies, micelles, liposomes and nanofibers. Nanomedicine makes use of these nanostructures for diagnostic or therapeutic applications in all fields of medicine, using them for drug delivery, biosensors, neuro-electronic interfaces, in vivo imaging, and cell-specific molecular interactions, where "cell repair machines" could revolutionize medicine and the medical field. As drug delivery systems, nanoparticles can be designed to improve the pharmacological and therapeutic properties of drugs. The strength of nanoparticulate drug delivery systems is their ability to alter the pharmacokinetics and biodistribution of drugs.

Nanomedicine seeks to deliver a valuable set of research tools and clinically useful devices. The pharmaceutical industry is developing new commercial applications that may include advanced drug delivery systems, new therapies, and in vivo imaging. Another active and very much related area of research is the investigation of toxicity and environmental impact of nanoscale materials, since nanomedicines must be biocompatible for clinical application.

In the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, all aspects of nanomedicine are investigated by different collaborating investigators. This starts with the synthesis of novel drug candidates; the design, synthesis and testing of novel materials (e.g., polymers, magnetic nanoparticles); the encapsulation of drugs into many different types of drug delivery systems (e.g., liposomes, polymersomes, micelles, nanoparticles, microspheres and nanofibre mats); the in vitro and in vivo testing; and the preclinical evaluation of these systems via optical, radioactive and magnetic resonance-based imaging in-house. The latter also involves the synthesis of novel radioactive and non-radioactive theranostic compounds with or without specific targeting groups. Several clinical trials are underway in collaboration with investigators at Vancouver General Hospital, the BC Cancer Agency and Children's & Women's Health Centre of British Columbia.

Drug Delivery and Nanomedicine Researchers

Name Position Contact
Helen M. Burt
(604) 822-2440
Urs Hafeli
(604) 822-7133
Shyh-Dar Li
Associate Professor
(604) 827-0675
Colin Ross
Assistant Professor of Pharmacogenomics
(604) 827-2017
Katayoun Saatchi
Research Associate
(604) 827-5839

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