Scientists at the University of Liverpool are leading a £1.65-million project to produce and test the first nanomedicines for treating HIV/AIDS.
The research project, funded by the 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. EPSRC is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences.
The new therapy options were generated by modifying existing antiretroviral (ARV) treatments for HIV. The university recently produced ARV drug particles at the nanoscale which potentially reduce the toxicity and variability in the response different patients have to therapies.
Drug nanoparticles have been shown to allow smaller doses in other disease areas, which opens up possibilities of reducing drug side-effects and the risk of drug resistance. Nanoscale objects are less than one micron in size – a human hair is approximately 80 microns in diameter.
Professor Steve Rannard, from the university's department of chemistry, says, ''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 treatments.''