When Nanoparticles help Medicine
Frank Alexis, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation at Yachay Tech University, describes his research regarding Nanoparticle Drug Delivery Systems.
July 23, 2019
Research involving Nanoparticle Drug Delivery Systems (NPDDS) has significantly increased in the past few years. These days, a search of the term in Google Scholar will lead to more than a million results. However, more than ten years ago, literature on the subject wasn’t this robust. Back then, in 2008, Frank Alexis, Ph.D., current Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation at Yachay Tech University, published a review paper on the subject titled “Factors Affecting the Clearance and Biodistribution of Polymeric Nanoparticles”, which has now reached more than 2500 citations.
In their paper, Frank Alexis, Ph.D, and his co-authors described the factors that decrease the “efficiency” of NP drug delivery systems in the body. They reviewed how parameters like composition, size, core properties or surface modifications influence interactions with biological barriers such as circulation time and accumulation into tissues. Rapid clearance of circulating nanoparticles (when this time is too short) reduces the chance to deliver therapeutics effectively. We spoke with Frank to unveil the main aspects of research and development of NPDDS and to get a broader view on how the field has grown.
Yachay Tech: Why do you think your paper has reached so many citations?
Frank Alexis: I think 10 years ago marked the beginning of the slope of the increase of publications about nanomaterials and the interest in the pharmacokinetics of nanoparticles was and remains very high today. One reason is that there were new toxicology and clinical data that demonstrated the possible impact of nanoparticles in healthcare.
YT: How has research regarding NPDDS advanced during this time (it’s been more than ten years) in terms of reducing the possibilities of rapid clearance of circulating nanoparticles?
FA: During the past 10 years, knowledge on nanoparticles has significantly advanced, especially the clinical aspects. Many nanoparticle formulations are in the late clinical test stage, many new startups have been created to develop technologies related to nanoparticles for bioimaging or therapy, and the number of patents has increased significantly. There were also some failures that contributed to develop more the fundamental science related to immunology, etc.
YT: Have you continued to do research on NPPDS in Yachay Tech? If so, have you collaborated with faculty or students here?
FA: Yes, we continue to do research on nanoparticles at Yachay Tech but we have focused on natural sources of nanoparticles instead of synthetic ones. Many students are involved in this research but we have focused our efforts on global problems also relevant to Ecuador like removal of toxic water pollutants and prevention of diseases in the shrimp industry.
YT: Do you think Ecuador has potential for NPDDS research and development? Why?
FA: Ecuador has the potential like any other country and it is up to the young generation to push it through. However, there are some challenges associated with developing a drug delivery system, especially a nanoparticle, and if someone looked at what country has been able to do it and how many scientists have done it, you could count them with one hand. There are probably more opportunities in developing a bioimaging agent because it requires less steps. To develop a therapeutic or an imaging nanoparticle, Ecuador needs a strong clinical research system and sufficient interactions with Universities, which goes beyond internships for students. It is a step-by-step process and internships are the first step. However, I believe that Ecuador has great potential for different applications of nanomaterials including agriculture, aquaculture, petroleum, energy sectors, etc.
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