Vladimir Torchilin, dis­tin­guished pro­fessor of phar­ma­ceu­tical sci­ences at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, recently received a $1.36 mil­lion grant from the National Insti­tutes of Health’s Cancer Insti­tute to examine a new, nanotechnology-​​based method of drug development.

Cou­pling phar­ma­ceu­tical nan­otech­nology with a new drug-​​coating process, this novel tech­nique has the poten­tial to make water-​​insoluble drugs effec­tive and increase the amount of active drug ingre­di­ents in the medication.

The tech­nique we pro­pose could improve the func­tion of existing drugs and could also pro­duce new ther­a­peutic options for many dis­eases,” said Torchilin, who is the director of Northeastern’s Center for Phar­ma­ceu­tical Biotech­nology and Nanomed­i­cine, and the prin­cipal inves­ti­gator on the grant.

Water-​​insoluble drugs have a low effi­cacy rate because they are poorly absorbed in the body, and can cause blood vessel block­ages if injected. These prop­er­ties have hin­dered the devel­op­ment of water-​​insoluble drugs as viable treat­ment options, leaving thou­sands of promising ther­a­peu­tics on the shelf.

To counter these prop­er­ties, Torchilin together with his col­lab­o­ra­tors from Louisiana Tech Uni­ver­sity has applied a layer-​​by-​​layer method of coating drug nanopar­ti­cles with cer­tain bio­com­pat­ible poly­meric mate­rials. These mate­rials pre­vent drug pre­cip­i­ta­tion or aggre­ga­tion into larger par­ti­cles, enabling the drugs to be injected into the body and travel pre­cisely to the dis­ease target. Addi­tion­ally, more of the drug’s active ingre­di­ents reach the target, and can be pro­grammed to release at a spe­cific time.

Torchilin’s research on nanocar­riers has played a major role in the field of nanomed­i­cine, which is expected to be a $15 tril­lion industry by 2015. Torchilin likens nanocar­riers to trains, deliv­ering pre­cise amounts of drugs to a spe­cific place at a spe­cific time. While en route to their des­ti­na­tion — dis­eased cells — nanocar­riers envelop the drugs like a train’s box­cars, pre­venting them from killing healthy cells.

Cancer drugs need to be deliv­ered inside the cell in order to kill cancer cells, and nanocar­riers make that pos­sible,” said Torchilin. “There are many poten­tial appli­ca­tions for insol­uble drugs, and this new tech­nology will help us explore these options.”

The research, now being con­ducted in vitro (with target cells in a con­trolled envi­ron­ment), will even­tu­ally be tested in mice to inves­ti­gate its’ poten­tial appli­ca­tion in humans.

Torchilin is working with Yuri Lvov, pro­fessor of micro and nanosys­temsat Louisiana Tech University.

For more infor­ma­tion about Pro­fessor Torchilin’s research, please visit http://​www​.north​eastern​.edu/​b​o​u​v​e​/​f​a​c​u​l​t​y​/​t​o​r​c​h​i​l​i​n​_​v​.​h​tml.