Schematic illustration of cellular uptake, endosomal escape and functional response.
Schematic illustration of cellular uptake, endosomal escape and functional response. Illustration: Fredrik Höök

75 MSEK for developing target seeking biological pharmaceuticals

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF) invests 75 million SEK in an industrial research centre managed by Chalmers Professor Fredrik Höök. The project focuses on encapsulating biological pharmaceuticals into nanoscale carriers in order to reach the body’s cells and treat severe diseases.

"A promising candidate for treating today’s incurable diseases is to reprogram the cells. However, since the reprogramming must take place inside the cell the pharmaceutical must penetrate the cell membrane. Designing and encapsulating biological molecules in nanocarriers so that they are capable of this is very challenging. That’s why it’s important with a broad-scale collaboration between the academia and the industry, says Fredrik Höök, Professor in biological physics at the Department of Physics at Chalmers and academic leader for Formulaex.

The industrial research centre will focus on so called nucleotide-based therapeutics and in the consortium Chalmers collaborates with the lead industrial partner Astra Zeneca as well as Camurus, Vironova, Gothenburg Sensor Devices and the academic partners Karolinska Institute and University of Gothenburg.

The centre will study fundamental requirements for pharmaceuticals made from biological molecules like DNA and RNA – the code that is the foundation for how cells work. Present research on the improvement of pharmaceuticals’ transportation into a cell is based on fabricating nanoparticles which mimic naturally occurring processes in the human body. Cells can, for instance, communicate by exchange of nanocarriers.

“I am looking forward to the new dimension this project will add to our ongoing research, which has potential value far outside this team of academic and industrial partners. The assembled excellence of the industry and the academia can hopefully generate a great benefit for society. We also hope that our region will become even more attractive within Life science”, says Fredrik Höök.

Within the Chalmers’ team there are two more members: Professor Marcus Wilhelmsson at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and Associate Professor Elin Esbjörner at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering.

The project “Functional delivery of nucleotide based therapeutics” will run for six to eight years and give a better understanding of the process of cellular uptake and endosomal escape of nucleotide based therapeutics. The work includes development of advanced analytical methods, biomolecular design, cell studies and development of nanocarriers and delivery of new genetic bases therapeutics. 

Text: Mia Halleröd Palmgren, mia.hallerodpalmgren@chalmers.se

Contact:
Fredrik Höök, Academic leader, Professor at the Department of Physics, Chalmers, 0708-95 12 39, fredrik.hook@chalmers.se

More information:

Read the press release from The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (in Swedish)
Read more about the research of Fredrik Höök.

Note: 75 MSEK equals approximately 7.9 MEUR (9 February 2017)

Published: Wed 08 Feb 2017.