Chalk Talks: An E(L)Pic Time

For those of us working on developing next-generation therapies, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals, it’s easy to take the actual mechanism of drug delivery for granted. While the molecules we purify and test against pathogens and/or tumors may do perform quite well on a cell culture plate, ensuring that the actual administration and delivery of these drugs goes smoothly in live tissue is just as important. That’s what makes Camila’s work on pharmacokinetics at the Chilkoti lab so important.

Traditionally, when a drug is administered to the body, it has very little time to do what it needs to do before it gets excreted. This leads to multiple doses of highly-concentrated drug being used, which can yield additional negative side effects. A drug delivery mechanism that allows for more sustained, controlled release could substantially mitigate these challenges.

The Chilkoti group does a considerable amount of work on so-called elastin-like polypeptides, or ELPs. Derived from naturally-occurring elastin, these proteins undergo significant temperature-based solubility changes, becoming insoluble at body temperature and forming a slow-dissolving deposit within the target tissue. Any drugs attached to the ELP would then have much more time to act, resulting in sustained chemical release.

One of the biggest obstacles to the systematic usage of lectins like griffithsin as antivirals has been their high inherent toxicity in tissue. Given the strides being made by Camila and her colleagues in the Chilkoti lab, we may soon have the means to control just how much lectin gets released at one time, mitigating the adverse effects that would otherwise occur. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about her research and found her presentation of such a complex topic (just count the syllables in pharmacokinetics) super clear and interesting. Keep doing great things, Camila!

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