Researchers begin trial of targeted drug delivery system that could help manage liver disease

18 September 2023

A pioneering new drug delivery system which could have the potential to prevent and treat chronic liver disease, among other applications, is being developed by Cell Guidance Systems in Cambridge in collaboration with the University of Derby.

The project team has been awarded £350,000 by Innovate UK, the UK’s national innovation agency. This will fund a two-year project to develop a nano-scale targeted delivery system that will allow RNA drugs, which are widely used in vaccines and other therapies, to better cross the cell wall, which is required for them to work.

Dr Michael Jones, CEO of Cell Guidance Systems, said:

“RNA drugs are set to revolutionise medicine. Delivering the cargo effectively to their target cells is key to their performance. The research we are undertaking will explore the use of new technology to make RNA drugs more effective.”

Dr Ali Kermanizadeh, Lecturer in Clinical Biochemistry and Toxicology at the University of Derby, said:

“Over the last decade there has been much progress in the field of nanomedicine. However, there is still a pressing need for improvements to address issues such as cost of production, batch to batch inconsistency, poor storage stability, adverse effects and lack of targeting.” 

A person working in a laboratory
A researcher at the University of Derby

Liver disease is a silent pandemic, estimated to affect up to 50% of adults globally. It is associated with three other major global health challenges - obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Chronic liver disease is characterised by chronic inflammation and can lead to life-threatening conditions such as liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Dr Kermanizadeh added:

“The health, societal and financial costs of liver disease are alarming. In 2020 the clinical cost of the disease in the UK alone was reported to be over £10 billion, accounting for 5% of the overall NHS budget. At present there are no approved therapies to manage the condition, and there is an urgent need to develop safe treatments that can reduce inflammation and prevent disease progression. We hope that this new approach could have long-term benefits for the management of chronic liver conditions and in time help improve the quality of life of many people globally.”

Cell Guidance Systems and the University of Derby have received the funding as part of Innovate UK’s Transforming Medicine Manufacturing programme, which has awarded a total of £13 million to 17 cutting-edge medicine manufacturing projects across the UK. The two organisations will work closely to develop the delivery system, assessing its safety and evaluating its overall effectiveness in the management and treatment of chronic liver disease.

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