NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Nanotechnology company NanoPacific Holdings said this week that it has exclusively licensed a suite of supramolecular nanoparticle technologies from the University of California at Los Angeles.
NanoPacific will use develop the technology for a wide variety of biomedical applications, beginning with highly tailored reagents for siRNA-based gene transfection, and eventually moving into areas such as companion diagnostics, drug delivery, and induced pluripotent stem cells, Hsian-Rong Tseng, the UCLA researcher who invented the technology, said this week.
In addition, Tseng said that NanoPacific and UCLA are currently negotiating a research agreement to jointly develop applications for the nanoparticles, building on an ongoing collaborative relationship NanoPacific has maintained with the school since it was founded in 2007.
The nanoparticle technology is a tertiary mixture of modular components that self-assemble into supramolecular nanoparticles with a high degree of size and morphological control, as well as tunable surface charge and chemistry, NanoPacific said.
These properties enable the production of biodegradable nanoparticles with improved, physiological stability, longer blood retention times, low acute toxicity, and low immunogenicity. In addition, the tunable surfaces allow the conjugation of several types of imaging agents, as well as targeted and controlled cargo delivery.
Currently, most nanoparticles are created using synthetic organic chemistry techniques, Tseng, an associate professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at UCLA, told GWDN this week. This means that researchers must synthesize specific delivery vehicles based on a particular application, then start from scratch to create a different type of nanoparticle.
"Our approach is based on supramolecular chemistry," Tseng said. "The concept is something like brick and mortar. Basically we assemble the molecules from many small components that are easily digested or metabolized in the body, and we can glue it to the sides of a nanoparticle, that's the mortar – something like an oligonucliotide."
This method allows the researchers to mix different components to generate a diverse library of nanoparticles – "a thousand or tens of thousands," Tseng said.
These characteristics make the nanoparticles particularly attractive for gene delivery applications. "It doesn't matter what kind of nanoparticle I produced – we will have a functional assay to do a readout," Tseng said. "In the case of gene delivery, we can see which type of nanoparticle will give us higher transfection efficiency.
"We don't do rational design – we just produce a lot of [nanoparticles] to see which ones perform the best," he added. "It's a really powerful chemistry technique to generate a diverse library for screening."
Although the details are still being worked out, Tseng said that NanoPacific plans to continue working with his lab to focus initially on developing nanoparticles to deliver genes, proteins, and drugs to cells.
Of these, delivery of genes will be a priority because "it's the low-hanging fruit," Tseng said. In the long term, he added, the group would like to use the technology to reprogram cells to create induced pluripotent stem cells for research or therapeutic use.
In addition, other applications may include delivering siRNA alone or in combination with other small molecules for targeted cancer therapy; or conjugating the nanoparticles with various imaging reagents to conduct real-time in vivo molecular imaging for diagnostic purposes, Tseng said.
NanoPacific's deal with UCLA for Tseng's technology is the latest in a series of research and technology-licensing deals with the school since NanoPacific was founded in 2007 to commercialize various nanotechnologies invented at UCLA and the University of California, Santa Barbara, primarily through their joint California NanoSystems Institute.
Since that time, NanoPacific has exclusively licensed so-called "hard container" technology, or silicate-based porous nanoparticles; "soft containers," a type of nanoemulsion; and a polypeptide-synthesis method. NanoPacific is working with researchers at the NanoSystems Institute to develop a variety of life sciences applications for each of the technologies.
The company has not disclosed financial details of any of the arrangements, and representatives from the company could not be reached for this article. However, in October, Chairman and Co-CEO Joseph Boystak told GWDN that the licenses were "very broad and encompassing," and involve a series of milestone payments and ongoing royalties following the first commercial sale of a product.
In addition, in connection with the most recent licensing deal, Tseng may take an advisory role with the company, but details are under wraps for the time being.
UCLA filed a provisional patent for Tseng's technology earlier this year, Tseng said, and expects the provisional to convert to a non-provisional application sometime in January.