Midatech gets exclusivity on noble metal nanoparticles

By Pete Mansell

- Last updated on GMT

The Spanish subsidiary of UK-based biological nanoparticles
specialist Midatech Group has signed a licence agreement giving it
new leeway to exploit the therapeutic potential of noble metal

The exclusive worldwide licence from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and the Materials Science Institute of Seville bolsters Midatech's intellectual property (IP) portfolio and opens up a range of possible applications for nanoparticles with a noble metal (e.g., gold) core, from localised drug release to cell apoptosis achieved through radiofrequency heating technology.

This latter application is of particular interest to Midatech Andalucia, which was set up in Seville to exploit the group's IP relating to magnetic noble metal nanoparticles and their interaction with external alternating magnetic fields.

The Spanish subsidiary is developing a hysteresis heating device for localised destruction of bacteria and cancerous cells.

The licence agreement with the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and the Materials Science Institute of Seville effectively widens the scope of Midatech priority applications dating back to 2000 and 2003, so that they now include the discovery of magnetic behaviour in noble metal nanoparticles.

The patents concerned are, respectively, WO/02/32404, published in April 2002 and covering water soluble nano-tools for studying carbohydrate-mediated interactions (i.e., nanoparticles, including gold glyconanoparticles); and WO/04/108165, published in December 2004 and covering magnetic nanoparticles linked to a ligand.

The noble metal nanoparticles are less than 10nm in diameter and at this nano-scale exhibit ferromagnetic-like behaviour, Midatech said.

Exposure to an alternating magnetic field causes the nanoparticle's noble metal core to absorb the field energy, which is then released as heat or chemical energy.

The nanoparticles can then be targeted to specific tissues, cells or intracellular locations by molecular area coating.

"This radiofrequency heating technology, when applied to our unique nanoparticle design, has exceptionally wide-ranging applications, a particular example being the use of localised heat to kill cancerous cells and drug-resistant bacteria (MSRA)," noted Midatech Group chairman Tom Rademacher.

Further proof-of-concept work on the development of localised heating technology will be carried out under an R&D agreement at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC) in Seville, led by Professor Asunción Fernández, head of the Nanostructured Materials group at the Materials Science Institute.

The Institute is shared between the CSIC and the University of Sevilla.

The CSIC originally developed the process for synthesising self-assembled nanoparticles that was the basis for Midatech's formation in 2000.

The UK group obtained exclusive worldwide rights to this technology from the Spanish Research Council.

Midatech's research programmes exploring the therapeutic and diagnostic potential of nanotechnology include using nanoparticles as scaffolds for synthetic vaccines and antibiotics, as delivery vehicles for RNA interference compounds and drugs that can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), in targeted cancer treatments, and as non-invasive imaging agents.

These technologies are generating a good deal of commercial interest.

According to Professor Rademacher, Midatech has entered into agreements with 16 (undisclosed) pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies on proof-of-concept studies for its pipeline projects, while seven in-house proof-of-concept studies are ongoing with various academic institutions, many of which will reach the licensing stage this year.

Midatech has also talked about putting its first product candidate into clinical trials during 2008.

Professor Rademacher said the group was currently looking to complete various toxicology studies this year, and would then make a decision on which projects to take into the clinic.

"A number of regulatory issues will still need to be addressed but we still hope to keep to our timetable," he commented.

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