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Joseph DeSimone innovates drug delivery using nanotechnology

Using nanotechnology, DeSimone has developed a way to engineer drug particles so they target only diseased regions of the body and avoid healthy cells.

Joseph DeSimone: One of the challenges with a solid tumor like pancreatic tumors, is that not too much of the drug actually gets into the tumor. So we’re trying to design more effective ways for getting the drugs into the tumor, instead of poisoning the entire body.

Joseph DeSimone is a chemist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Using nanotechnology, DeSimone has developed a way to engineer drug particles so they target only diseased regions of the body and avoid healthy cells.

Joesph DeSimone: Where particles go in the body is a strong function of their size and shape.

DeSimone is altering both the size and shape of drug particles using strips of silicon, which he likened to very, very tiny – that is, nano-sized – ice cube trays.

Joseph DeSimone: What we’re able to do is fill the cavities of that ice cube tray-like structure and fill it with liquids that are the precursors to medicines. And once we convey that liquid to a solid, it becomes a particle.

When the particles are harvested from the trays, he said, they can be used therapeutically.

Joseph DeSimone: From putting them in the bloodstream and using them to target cancer cells, or maybe we make them a little bigger so they can be inhaled, and this opens up a whole lot of new approaches for a variety of different diseases.

DeSimone said that the idea of a useful, easy-to-manufacture medical system is at the base of this research.

Joseph DeSimone: We’re trying to bridge the fabrication technologies associated with making semiconductors and transistors, and applying them in the area of nanomedicine. And so the idea of taking the uniformity and precision associated with making these transistors and applying them to making organic carriers useful for more effective treatments in a whole host of different diseases, from cancer to autoimmune disorders, to even neurological disorders, is really what we’re focused on today.

His goal was to create a technology to manufacture drug delivery nanoparticles cheaply and easily.

Joseph DeSimone: We’ve converted them to a roll-to-roll process for making these nanoparticles – in many ways like newspaper is made, or film. That opens up the scale, and lowers the cost, and gives us the opportunity to actually get this into the clinic.

Our thanks today to the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

Our thanks to Joseph DeSimone.
Joseph DeSimone is the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at University of North Carolina. He’s also the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University. Over the course of his career, DeSimone has applied his expertise to a range of fields including green manufacturing, medical devices and nanomedicine. DeSimone holds more than 115 research-related patents, with more than 70 new patent applications pending. In 2009, he was awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize for innovations in polymer chemistry.

Lindsay Patterson

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