A Packaged Deal


Scientists are working on various methods of packaging drugs and biologics to do two things:

  • Help the therapeutic molecules travel through the BBB and brain tissue by reducing their “stickiness.”
  • Use focused ultrasound to “open” the package only at the precise location where they are needed.

In this type of packaging, “carrier vehicles” may more effectively deliver the proper clinical dosage to the correct region of the brain. Drugs, proteins, and genes can be packaged in microbubbles, nanoparticles, or viral vectors.

Gene and DNA delivery can increase the production of desirable proteins within a cell in a particular region of the body.

Microbubbles can be coated in lipids, gadolinium, or gold. Each coating changes the properties, which affects its ability to move throughout the body, and can also assist in MR visualization during delivery.

Who is Packaging Medications and Biologics?

Johns Hopkins University has a molecular packaging plant, and so do other academic institutions and private companies. Some of the companies have spun out of the academic centers and continue to collaborate with them. From Colorado to Virginia, then north to Boston and Toronto, scientists have a broad range of ideas and products that will assist the process of delivering drugs and biologics across the BBB.

  • Mark Borden at the University of Colorado, Boulder is size-selecting microbubbles and optimizing their rigidity and stability properties. They developed polyplex bubbles and are working on using them for gene delivery.
  • Rich Price at UVA and Justin Hanes at Johns Hopkins are collaborating to enhance FUS delivery of drugs and gene-loaded nanoparticles in models of glioma and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Sasha Klibanov at UVA is increasing the therapeutic index of drug-carrying microbubbles in mice that have been infected with colon adenocarcinoma, reducing tumor growth. Microbubbles combined with liposome-encapsulated doxorubicin are also inhibiting tumor growth with less toxicity in a model of Crohn’s disease.
  • Nathan McDannold at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard and Barbara Waszczak at Northeastern University in Boston are testing an intranasal method to introduce neurotrophic-carrying DNA vectors into the body and across the BBB.
  • Artenga, Inc. and the National Research Council of Canada developed a method to efficiently and consistently load antibodies, proteins, antibody-drug conjugates, genes, and neurotrophic factors onto microbubbles to treat multiple diseases with different compounds and tumor-targeting agents.