Research in the Pharmaceutics division can be centred around 3 themes:
1. Nanocarriers for small molecule drugs, peptides, proteins and nucleic acids
In this research theme nanocarrier systems are being developed for local or systemic delivery of drugs to diseased sites. The focus is on cancer and chronic inflammatory diseases. Drug delivery systems are tailored to obtain controlled release of drugs in time and space. A particular focus is on the intracellular delivery of biomacromolecules, which is currently one of the biggest hurdles that severely limits the druggable target space.
2. Macroscopic scaffolds for controlled release of small molecule drugs, peptides and proteins (e.g. hydrogels and drug-loaded stents)
In this theme, polymers are being synthesized that can be used for the preparation of injectable hydrogels or microspheres for sustained release of small molecule drugs or proteins. By changing the chemical properties of the used polymers and changed the cross linking density of the polymeric networks the release rate can be precisely tuned to meet the desired release profile.
3. Scaffolds for regenerative medicine and cell-based therapies
Polymers are also developed for the generation of printable biomaterials to generate 3D scaffolds on which cells can adhere. These polymeric scaffolds can be functionalized with biomolecules to support cell growth and tissue regeneration. A recently started research line includes the use of cell reprogramming to generate patient-derived cell lineages (e.g. neurones) to be used in combination with the above mentioned scaffolds for regenerative medicine.
Besides these main research themes, the Pharmaceutics division is also directly involved in research on therapeutic proteins. Prof. Koen Mertens is investigating the pharmaceutical application of plasma proteins. Prof. Huub Schellekens is an expert on immunogenicity and bioequivalence (biosimilars) of therapeutic proteins. He is also the initiator of the Utrecht Centre of Excellence for Affordable Biotherapeutics for Public Health (UCAB), a collaboration between Utrecht University and the World Health Organization with the aim to develop affordable biosimilars for low and middle income countries.
The Pharmaceutics department has a broad international network and participates in several international training networks to train the next generation of drug delivery researchers. Moreover, the Pharmaceutics groups has attracted researchers with scholarships from all over the world (China, Iran, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia).