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Nanomaterials March 2018 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Marianne Monteforte

Slow-Release Drug-Delivery Gel

Why is this topic significant?

After a decade of research and development and $10 million of funding, a US nanotech start-up revealed its second-generation drug-delivery system, which enables the slow release of notoriously hard-to-deliver therapeutics over a 24-hour period.

Description

Recently, a nanotech start-up and developer for the pharmaceutical industry, Zylö Therapeutics (Greenville, South Carolina) revealed its second-generation slow-release drug-delivery system that comes in the form of an ointment, gel, or cream. The drug-delivery system relies on the company's patented hydrogel-derived nanoparticle carriers—trade-name: Nanopods. The hydrogel nanoparticles encapsulate and protect the therapeutics in a three-dimensional network that degrades over time in the presence of water. On administration of the therapeutic formulation, the Nanopod gel dissipates immediately under the surface of the skin and decomposes, gradually releasing the therapeutic payload over a 24-hour period.

Zylö Therapeutics claims that the technology can facilitate the delivery of typically difficult-to-deliver therapeutic payloads that include:

  • Nitric oxide (for the treatment of dermatological conditions, wound healing, sinusitis, cystic fibrosis, Raynaud's disease, and erectile dysfunction)
  • Iron (for the treatment of anemia)
  • Natural antioxidant curcumin (for the treatment of osteoarthritis or other inflammatory conditions).

This technology can also find use in cosmetic applications (for the delivery of quercetin, allicin, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and melanin). Zylö Therapeutics has demonstrated the efficacy and safety of several Nanopod systems in animal models.

Implications

Hydrogels are a versatile class of biocompatible material with proven applications in medicine. In particular, the ability to vary the diffusive properties of hydrogels gives them value in applications such as drug delivery. Hydrogel-derived nanocarriers offer drug-delivery-system developers the opportunity to improve delivery and targeting and to improve solubility and reduce toxicity effects in drug delivery. Zylö Therapeutics's delivery system also addresses current constraints in existing drug-delivery systems, such as inadequate penetration and the typically short-lived release of standard topical-administration approaches, which can make it inherently difficult to deliver drugs effectively to the body. This drug-delivery technology could find significant unmet market demand, and as a result, the company is seeking potential partners to develop and commercialize various therapeutic delivery systems. However, Zylö Therapeutics's drug-delivery gel is likely to see competition from other more established and emerging drug-delivery options, such as injectable and implantable materials that store and release therapeutics over time.

Impacts/Disruptions

Drug delivery is a key component of bringing new therapeutics to market. New methods of drug delivery can enable novel drugs to become effective treatments. A large number of academic and corporate organizations worldwide are active in developing drug-delivery systems. As a result, a variety of nanoscale drug-delivery technologies are under development, particularly by pharmaceutical companies. Despite ongoing research in the field of biomedical applications of nanoderived hydrogels, their use in drug-delivery applications is still limited. To succeed, drug-delivery companies need to continue to prove their long-term efficacy and safety over existing models.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now to 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Biomedical, pharmaceutical, health care, cosmetics, drug delivery

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

Computational Tools Accelerate the Search for 2D Materials

Why is this topic significant?

A new high-throughput simulation method could help to accelerate the discovery of new two-dimensional-materials candidates for a range of next-generation applications, including electromagnetic shielding, energy storage, and medicine.

Description

MXene alloys, discovered in 2011, are emerging as an attractive new class of two-dimensional (2D) materials for a diverse range of applications. MXene alloys can conceivably consist of compositions of a variation of transition-metal atoms ("M"; such as molybdenum or titanium) and carbon and nitrogen atoms ("X"). Already, over 20 classes of MXenes exist, with many further possible MXene-alloy compositions yet to be identified. Computational simulation methods are key enabling tools that provide a fast method for materials scientists to identify the best combinations of MXenes (that are thermodynamically stable and thus commercially feasible).

Conventional simulation methods using "first-principles" calculation approaches are too computationally intensive to scan all possible combinations of MXenes. As a result, a team of researchers in Singapore from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) Institute of High Performance Computing developed a new high-throughput simulation scanning method. The simulation scans through millions of potential alloy configurations to predict MXene alloy compositions with the lowest-formation energy and highest stability of all the possible combinations. According to the research team, the computational scan revealed "that molybdenum-based MXenes mixed with vanadium, tantalum, niobium or titanium, appear to form the most stable ordered structures. Titanium however tends to form stable 'asymmetric' ordered structures." Therefore, this study reveals new MXene compositions that scientists previously did not consider to be technically viable.

Implications

MXenes are emerging as an attractive class of 2D materials as a result of their unique combination of properties, including high electrical conductivity, high hydrophilicity, excellent thermal stability (light radiation-damage resistance), large interlayer spacing, and easily tunable structure. MXenes show great potential for future applications in energy conversion, energy harvesting, and storage (such as water electrolyzers, triboelectric nanogenerators, lithium-ion batteries, and supercapacitors).

The A*STAR researchers' high-throughput method will likely provide materials scientists with an invaluable tool for predicting the best candidates of MXene alloy—from the millions of possible combinations—for specific applications. The research team could also benefit from developing new methods to model process interactions between nanomaterials, tools, and the process environment during fabrication, which is critical for nanomanufacturing and developing scale-up techniques.

Impacts/Disruptions

In terms of large-scale commercialization, much work remains before 2D materials could find use in real devices or products. For example, for 2D materials to meet their full commercial potential, production processes need to be inexpensive, scalable, and environmentally benign. In addition, to compete against currently available technologies, device developers will need to demonstrate the clear advantages of 2D materials, such as their enhanced performance for diverse applications or their cost-saving potential. To do so, two-dimensional-materials developers will likely benefit from collaborations between big-data experts, computational scientists, application developers, and end users. In addition, advances in powerful computer-modeling and simulation tools will greatly support nanotechnologists' efforts in the commercialization of 2D materials. In addition, advances in synergistic technologies—such as computing power, artificial intelligence, and big-data analytics—will also play a key role in the development of high-throughput computational tools.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium to High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now to 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

2D materials, computational tools, materials discovery and design, electromagnetic shielding, energy storage

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: