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Formulation and Drug Delivery

Research Group

Designing and formulating better drug delivery systems

We bring together researchers from across chemistry, biomaterials, pharmaceuticals and biological sciences – taking a truly multidisciplinary approach to research. 

Drugs need to be appropriately formulated to be effectively delivered to the body with minimal side effects. Different types of drug delivery systems include tablets, capsules, powders, suspension or solutions, some of which can be composed of micro- or nano- particles.

Our focus is towards the successful delivery of therapeutic agents in a controlled and targeted manner and the development of advanced delivery systems for a variety of applications. Both postgraduate students and researchers alike are working on a range of projects from fundamental science to industrially relevant applications. For REF2014, academic researchers were submitted to Unit of Assessment 3 (Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy) which had 68% of its outputs graded at the 3*/4* level and was in the top 20 Unit of Assessment 3 institutions for environment with 100% graded as 3*.

Some of our projects include:

  • Development of age-appropriate medicines for children
  • Formulation of novel mini-tablets for pediatric drug delivery
  • Generation of crystalline material via Langmuir monolayers to optimise inhaled drug delivery
  • Development of polymer-based micro-nanoparticles for targeted pulmonary delivery
  • Formulation of lipid based delivery systems for cancer therapy
  • Development of novel antimicrobial synthetic clays for wound care

Research themes

Formulation and drug delivery research is split into three themes that share a common aim of designing and formulating better drug delivery systems.

Nanoformulation

The aim of this group is to develop nanomaterials for potential applications such as the treatment of cancer, cystic fibrosis, delivery of vaccines and facilitation of wound healing. Research in this area includes the design and synthesis of novel polyesters for micro and nanoparticle drug delivery, formulation of lipid based carrier and the use of clays for drug delivery and wound healing.

Much of the research focus is on pulmonary drug delivery including the encapsulation of therapeutic drugs and macromolecules within biodegradable/biocompatible polymer-based nano/microparticles for delivery to the lungs via dry powder and metered dose inhalers. Polymer based nano/microparticles are employed for controlled pulmonary delivery, mucosal and systemic vaccination as well as studies to improve uptake into targeted cells.

Dosage form research

Dosage form research includes studies of crystal manipulation, solid dispersions of poorly soluble drugs, cellulose ether matrices and factors affecting both tablet compaction and the solubility of drugs in vivo. Recent research has been undertaken into the development of mini tablets for pediatric dosing and the administration of child doses of liquid formulations. Investigations into the crystallisation of drugs provide the ability to select polymorphs of a particular drug and determine the effects of this on compression properties.

Pharmaceutical technology

Pharmaceutical technology research includes developing and improving the devices used for both pharmaceutical research and the delivery of medicines into the body. For example, dry powder and metered dose inhalers for the pulmonary delivery of macromolecules and the use of models of the upper airway to improve the delivery of particles to the lungs.

Key project

Dry Powder Inhalation of Pneumococcal Vaccine using Polymeric Nanoparticles

S. pneumonia is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in both the developing and developed world. However, although current vaccines do exist, the majority of children in the developing countries are still unable to be vaccinated due to the lack of infrastructure, such as cold-chain and trained medical personnel, which are essential for the administration of traditional liquid-based vaccine formulations via the parenteral route.

Researchers at the Centro de Biotecnologia - Instituto Butantan, Brazil and The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine have developed a new vaccine against S. pneumonia and our collaboration with them aims to deliver this pneumococcal protein using non-invasive dry powder formulations which will help achieve vaccination in many of the more remote parts of the world.

This project focuses on the development of a single-dose pulmonary dry powder delivery system, encapsulating macromolecules in nanoparticles as a platform for vaccination against S. Streptococcus pneumonia, with the aim of targeting dendritic cells to induce mucosal and systemic immunity. Novel polymers are utilised for microparticle or nanoparticle delivery systems for the sustained and controlled release of therapeutic agents within the lungs for mucosal vaccination. Nanoparticles have shown promise in the field of drug delivery by acting as controlled delivery carriers for drugs and macromolecules targeting cells and tissues. However, the major challenge is to design a respirable carrier system to deliver nanoparticles to the lung, and overcome the lungs’ clearance mechanisms. This research aims to address this issue by investigating the formulation, characterisation and optimisation of nanocomposite microparticles, encapsulating therapeutic agents for controlled pulmonary delivery, mucosal and systemic vaccination as well as studies to improve uptake into targeted cells. The delivery systems are then evaluated using a range of inhaled devices for delivery to the lungs via dry powder and metered dose inhalers.

Research impact

Our research portfolio is diverse and includes both fundamental and applied research and the type of impact we generate is varied. We engage with external non-academic users to promote knowledge transfer and the realisation of the impact of our research. For example:

In collaboration with clinicians at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, a study to support an extension to the shelf life of monoclonal antibodies has led to a reduction in wastage and cost for the NHS and enabled the RLUH to support two large clinical trials for cancer treatment.

As part of the Medicines for Children Research Network and in collaboration with Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, we utilised knowledge exchange of clinic-based practices such as the manipulation of dosage forms for paediatric delivery. These findings were included in the 2012 WHO Technical Report Series and form the basis of the MODRIC (Manipulation Of Drugs Required in Children) guidelines available online for other medical professionals to access.

In 2009, Salt Union identified a development need with their road salt and via a Knowledge Transfer Programme (KTP) we used our expertise of pharmaceutical crystallisation to improve their industrial additives creating a premium, less corrosive product with a reduction in overhead costs. This also influenced national practice as more local authorities changed over to the premium, higher performing product and Compass Minerals also applied this approach in Canada and the US.

Who we work with

Externally, we work on a number of large collaborative projects with the chemical and pharmaceutical industries including GSK, Colorcon, Gattefossé, Medel’Pharm, BYK and Qualicaps S.A.U. We also have strong links with local NHS Trusts, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Royal Liverpool University Hospital and Liverpool Women’s Hospital. We collaborate extensively with other academic institutions in the UK, UCL School of Pharmacy; Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; University of Central Lancashire; Aston University, and worldwide, University of Camerino, Italy;  Assuit University, Egypt; King Saud University, Saudi Arabia; Princess Norouah bint Abdulrahman University, Saudi Arabia; Centro de Biotecnologia - Instituto Butantan, Brazil.

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Contact us

If you are interested in working with us on a collaborative project, get in touch with Gillian Hutcheon

Email: G.A.Hutcheon@ljmu.ac.uk.