Human Skin: Vehicle for Drug Delivery

September 8, 2017

What if your skin were the “device” delivering drugs to effectively treat diseases such as arthritis?  While the best treatment for arthritis pain is high doses of pain relievers like ibuprofen, repeated ingestion of many medications can result in ulcers and kidney problems. 

Dr. Eric Morrison, founder of drug-delivery company Dynation, Inc., envisions a serious reduction of side effects if the high doses of ibuprofen were administered topically, directly to the inflamed joints.  Morrison founded Dynation in 2014, stemming from his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry and Inorganic Chemistry from Penn State University. He specializes in nanomaterials, and his past projects include silver halide film, liquid toner, lubricant for Coca-Cola conveyer belts, and an environmentally-safe fire suppressant.

 

Dynation's main goal is to deliver drugs through the skin, a far more challenging process than one might think.  Previous efforts used a tiny balloon-like particle called a liposome to encase the drug, allowing it to get through the skin. Unfortunately, liposomes do not hold a large amount of drug, leading to almost no drug entering the body to accomplish its intended effect.

 

One Thing Led to Another
Dr. Morrison and Dr. Ted Davis began collaborating in 2009 on a project to make a better lubricant to prevent glass bottles from getting jammed on a stainless-steel conveyor belt, eventually including Dr. Alon McCormick.  In 2011, Morrison and McCormick serendipitously discovered what they called a “lipoleosome.”  After further characterizing lipoleosomes, they realized that their innovative technology could be used as a drug delivery system. Lipoleosomes not only have more potential for drug delivery than liposomes, they are easier to make and can include additives that increase skin permeation.

 

There are around 140 patent applications filed each year for conventional liposomes, but currently only one patent application for the higher-drug capacity lipoleosomes. Dr. Morrison started collaborating with more groups at the UMN to make, test, and characterize lipoleosomes. He works with the College of Science and Engineering, CSE Department of Chemistry, College of Pharmacy, the Characterization Facility, the NMR Center, the MN Nano Center, and the Carlson School of Management. Each of these multiple partners has been instrumental in moving the project forward.

 

Dynation has benefitted from being in the University Enterprise Labs with the UMN only a short light rail ride away. This makes it easier to meet with his collaborators.  The companies and workers at the UEL provide a collaborative environment which has aided in troubleshooting this project.

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