Liverpool University pioneers use of nanomedicines to treat HIV/AIDS
5 September 2012
The University of Liverpool is leading a £1.65 million project
to produce and test the first drugs for treating HIV/AIDS that are made
from nanoscale particles. Drug nanoparticles have been shown to allow
smaller doses in other disease areas and so have the potential to reduce
drug side-effects and the risk of drug resistance.
The new therapy options were generated by modifying existing HIV
treatments, called antiretrovirals (ARVs). The University has
recently produced ARV drug particles at the nanoscale which
potentially reduce the toxicity and variability in the response
different patients have to therapies.
The research project, funded by the UK Engineering and Physical
Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), aims to produce cheaper, more
effective medicines which have fewer side effects and are easier to
give to newborns and children.
Professor Steve Rannard, from the University's Department of
Chemistry, said: "Nanomedicines are being used daily to treat a
range of conditions around the world. There are, however, no current
nanoparticle HIV therapies that are providing this kind of patient
benefit. This project is the first step towards taking the
nanomedicine options that we have developed out of our labs and into
the clinic, representing a significant milestone in the development
of new HIV treatments.
"If we can demonstrate real potential from our planned clinical
work with healthy volunteers at the Royal Liverpool University
Hospital, then our collaboration partner, IOTA NanoSolutions, will
take forward the further development and clinical validation of the
ARV drug particles in HIV patients. We also aim to test new
formulations for children in developing countries, offering HIV
patients around the world the prospect of safer, more effective
Professor Andrew Owen, from the University's Department of
Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology, added: "We have integrated an
assessment of pharmacology and safety early in the research and this
has allowed us to rapidly progress lead options for clinical trials.
The work has been conducted with the Medical Research Council (MRC)
Centre for Drug Safety Science also based at the University."
"Our data so far looks really exciting, offering the potential to
reduce the doses required to control the HIV virus. This work builds
on initiatives by Médecins Sans Frontières and other groups to seek
ways to improve ARV therapy and could have real benefits for the
safety of ARVs globally. Importantly we also hope to reduce the
costs of therapy for resource-limited countries where the burden of
disease is highest."
Need for child-friendly treatments
HIV continues to increase in prevalence, with 34 million people
currently infected worldwide. The new HIV therapies offer particular
hope for treating children with HIV which affects 3.4 million
children under the age of 15 years in Sub Saharan Africa. About 90%
of infected infants acquire the virus through mother-to-child
transmission. Without treatment one third of children die within
their first year of life.
There are currently very limited child-appropriate HIV drugs
available and existing treatments carry a range of risks for the
infant including under or over dosing. The new HIV nanomedicines
from the Liverpool team disperse into water, which will make them
easier to administer, particularly to newborn babies.
The project will manufacture the ARV nanomedicines using
commercially relevant techniques under clinical grade manufacturing
conditions. IOTA NanoSolutions was created to further develop and
exploit technology originally developed at the University of
Liverpool. The company operates a novel nanoparticle synthesis
technology, ContraSol™ and is working with major global
pharmaceutical companies. The ARV programme represents a further
extension to the ongoing collaboration between the University of
Liverpool and IOTA NanoSolutions.
The project aims to deliver highly valuable data within three
years and provide a platform for continual development and testing
during that time.
David Delpy, Chief Executive of the EPSRC, said: "The EPSRC is
continuing its strong investment in nano-related research, which now
permeates through almost every aspect of the engineering and
physical sciences. This research may bring significant benefits to
children infected with the HIV virus.
"It demonstrates how the vast potential of the fundamental
science of nanotechnology is now being pulled through into
engineering applications that help us address the societal
challenges we face in healthcare and other areas."