Exchanging knowledge at the edge of pharmacology and materials chemistry

Collaboration with the National Measurement Laboratory is exchanging knowledge at the edge of pharmacology and materials chemistry

Researchers at the University of Liverpool are working alongside the National Measurement Laboratory (NML), hosted at LGC, at the interface between personalised health and advanced materials.

Dr Neill Liptrott and Dr Dan Carr of the Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology are working with Dr Heidi Goenaga-Infante of the NML to develop a model that can predict a patient’s immune cell response to long-acting injectables (LAI). The project has been successfully awarded £35,000 from the Higher Education Innovation Fund.

The development of long-acting injectables (LAI) springs from a combination of pharmacology and materials chemistry. They are an interdisciplinary solution to a variety of chronic medical conditions that need to be addressed within complex patient populations. LAI act as a delivery system that provides a sustained drug release over a long period of time, ensuring that doses are not missed by the patient and, when used to treat infectious diseases, help to suppress further outbreaks.

The team’s research is focussed on a particular challenge around the sub-cutaneous delivery method. Our immune system can attempt to prevent the spread of the foreign material, causing localised inflammation and potentially altering the release of the drug. The team is investigating whether this response is genetically controlled by developing a model to understand how the material chemistry and underlying genetics can control the body’s response.

The interdisciplinary nature of the research provides an environment for knowledge exchange between two distinct research fields. Dr Goenaga-Infante at NML is applying nanomaterial characterisation techniques that will help investigate the interface between the materials and the immune cells, and Dr Liptrott and Dr Carr are focussed on the genetic aspects of the project and the impacts of immune cell response.  The project is to develop, further, an in vitro model to examine how immune cells interact with LAI injection sites that may influence their biocompatibility, as well as the pharmacokinetics of the drug by influencing how the drug is released. Although this model is initially based on immortalised, human, cell lines, the aim is to introduce primary immune cells to ensure closer relevance to human administration. This gives the added benefit of exploring inter-individual variability in the immune response to LAI injection sites, and how this may impact on both efficacy and safety, in patients.  Ultimately, our ambition is to develop predictive tools which can improve outcomes in patients receiving LAIs.

The University of Liverpool and the National Measurement Laboratory, a leader in metrology for nanoparticle characterisation and reference materials production, have been working together since 2019 through the Nanotherapeutics Hub, part of the Centre of Excellence for Long-acting Therapeutics (CELT). This project represents an excellent opportunity for further knowledge exchange between the two organisations.

Dr Liptrott says “Our partnership with NML represents a key opportunity to translate academic research into standardised methodologies, ensuring that biological outcomes, such as safety, associated with advanced therapeutics are always supported by a robust understanding of the materials that are used in such applications. This is one of many projects we are working on with NML and it is exciting to move forward in the development of such an assay that may be key to the development of LAI, in the future.”

Dr Heidi Goenaga Infante says: “This project represents a fantastic opportunity to continue strengthening our collaboration with Dr Liptrott’s group. It will also facilitate application of the NML’s nano-metrology capability for advanced materials to support development and ultimate implementation of next generation nanotherapeutics”.

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